Love and Basketball - movie review (June 1, 2000)
You and me and basketball makes three.
When Quincy McCall (Omar Epps) meets new next-door neighbor Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan) when both are 11, sparks don't just fly - blood is drawn. During the course of the next 12 years, there are many things for them to deal with, separately and together, through high school, college and beyond. Quincy idolizes and emulates father Zeke (Dennis Haysbert), a professional basketball player dealing with the reality of his career coming to an end as his son's career is on the rise. Monica has to contend with the uphill fight of being female and a ballplayer and the disappointment of her very domestic mother (Alfre Woodard). Through it all, both Quincy and Monica must make some difficult decisions and learn some hard lessons about expectations and reality, but love and basketball are two subjects that are inseparable for them.
Have I mentioned yet how much I liked this film? I had seen a trailer for this film several weeks ago, and based on the one viewing, was interested in seeing the film. And the film does not disappoint. It's well written, both in terms of storyline and dialogue. One of the many interesting points of the film is that while both Quincy and Monica follow similar paths, their exact routes and progression differ greatly. The film is shot very well, with coverage of the games that matches exactly what you would see in an actual basketball telecast. The soundtrack is filled with songs that aren't just good but relevant to the story and the mood. And the acting is just superb.
Omar Epps ("Juice", "Major League II", "Scream 2" and "The Mod Squad") is terrific as the young boy who grows up and learns to be a man. He is charming, dynamic and at times, very affecting. Sanaa Lathan hasn't been in too many things, but she's definitely someone to keep an eye out for. She does an excellent job in the role of a woman trying to fight in a man's world. The chemistry and rapport between Epps and Lathan are definite reasons why the film works so well. Alfre Woodard ("Scrooged", "Miss Firecracker", "Grand Canyon", "Passion Fish", "How to Make an American Quilt", "Primal Fear", "Star Trek: First Contact" and "Dinosaur" (voice only)) is great in an unexpectedly subdued role. I'm used to seeing her play more outgoing and vocal characters, but she plays this character with quiet strength that becomes more evident as the film progresses. Debbi Morgan (TVs "All My Children", TVs "Roots: The Next Generation", "Eve's Bayou" and "The Hurricane") gives a good performance as Quincy's neglected yet pampered mother. Dennis Haysbert ("Major League", "Waiting to Exhale", "The Thirteenth Floor" and "Random Hearts") is fine as the father who wants more for his son than he had and for his son to be more than he is.
The film is written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
The best thing about this film is that it hits so many notes. There are many playful, funny scenes, there are several relationship threads running through it, there are amazing basketball sequences, and there are some very heavy moments. And none of the scenes feel out of place, though the ending is a bit more abrupt than I would have liked.
Even though this is an art-house film, I would highly recommend the film to anyone, and it�s well worth finding a theatre that's playing this film and making a bit of a drive, if that�s what it takes. Go see this film! (Go Lakers!)
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