What About Brian

Afro-American Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) has always set her mind to set her heart on an IBM – Ideal Black Man. No wonder she’s discombobulated when she’s blindly set-up in a date with a Caucasian man named Brian (Simon Baker). When they meet in a café, Kenya almost misses the white guy and when they talk, she ends it abruptly, feigning to have things to do. However, as luck would have it, she meets Brian again when he happens to be the recommended landscaper to groom her garden. Kenya awkwardly hires Brian, but remains on guard just in case something new happens between them. Of course, seeds of something new have already been planted. It’s only a matter of time until her garden blossoms, as well as romance.

“Something New” reminded me of “The Break-Up” because you end up with a discussion in your head. When it comes to race, well, it’s something quite tricky to run through. While the movie has nothing new to offer, it makes the issue pertinent without being contrived. The dialogue rings true and it hits just right to hurt. Racism is so easy to condemn but it’s so hard to be completely innocent on the subject. As the puppets of “Avenue Q” wisely realized in the song “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” no one is really color blind. The movie knows this and it would seem bogus if people were easily comfortable with the interracial pairing of Brian and Kenya. Furthermore, the movie is wise to not portray one race to be better than the other. The characters are understandably judgmental, skeptical, curious, anxious, concerned, and most definitely scared. To my surprise, I found Kenya to be the most racist character here and yet, she also garners the most empathy.

My biggest peeve with the movie is that, as much as Kenya is fully realized, her prince charming Brian never comes through as realistic to me. He’s too brave and cool enough to put up with the things he deal with here. He doesn’t seem so broken to be outright rejected by a black girl. He didn’t look perturbed when black people kid around right in front of his face. I would’ve loved it if he was more timid and ineptly idealistic. Other than that, this romantic comedy is fine. The cast is utterly delightful to spend time with, even if there are some uncomfortable moments. The ending was sort of predictable, but it’s interesting how it plays out. Thinking back at it, the plot makes sense and writer Kriss Turner should be praised for keeping the contrivances to a minimum. I much prefer this kind of romantic comedy than the superficial ones that never touch the ground. There are enough troubles in the real world to be inspired from. There’s no need for silly obstacles a screenwriter must device out of thin air. “I take hard earth and make things bloom,” gardener Brian says of himself in one scene. At the same time, he might have been speaking metaphorically for the movie too.

Grade: B+

Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Mike Epps, Donald Faison, Blair Underwood, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Golden Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, and Alfre Woodard
Screenplay by
Kriss Turner
Directed by
Sanaa Hamri
Rated PG-13 for sexual references