Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jumping the Broom

MPAA (PG) CNS/USCCB () Roger Ebert (3 stars) Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert’s review

I found Jumping the Broom (directed by Salim Akil, story by Elizabeth Hunter with the screenplay co-written by her and Arlene Gibbs) to be a lovely movie about two African American families meeting for a wedding of the spirit and caliber approaching that of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Moonstruck.  Yes, there are differences in all these movies but there are also many similarities.  And ultimately families are families.  All have their traditions, their stories and occasional secrets.  And occasions like weddings do flush them out.

What I found utterly endearing in this movie was that BOTH the bride and the groom explicitly appealed to God for help during the course of the story; the bride near the beginning and the groom near the end.  Further, during the whole of their courtship and engagement, the bride Sabrina Watson (played by Paula Patton) wishes to remain a “good girl” (no sex) because she made a promise to God and her fiancé Jason Taylor (played by Laz Alonzo) lets her keep her promise. 

Two comments here:  First, I find _both points_ (that the two would both ask God for help in times of crisis, and that the two would abstain from sex prior to marriage) _completely believable_.  And second both points underscore a truth about the African American community that often goes unnoticed and certainly goes underappreciated outside its bounds: African Americans make-up the single most church going ethnicity in the United States.  And even among those who do complicate their lives and end-up in jail (and the poorer strata in _any society_ always make-up disproportionately those who find themselves in jail), everyone of them has an mother, grandmother or aunt who is praying for them. 

To the story.  While driving home from another schmuck that she had been dating, Sabrina asks God to find her a man, and tells God that he’s gonna have to give her a real sign.  Well even as she finishes her little prayer/complaint, she _nearly runs over Jason_ who was trying to cross the street.  Feeling about guilty as one can be for grazing him with her car and knocking him to the pavement, she runs over to him apologizing profusely.  And they start a conversation ... ;-)

Five months later, they’ve been dating for some time and hitting it off.  Sandra, an accountant or financier of some sort gets a job that would result in her moving to China for some years.  Jason tells her to take the job, but then drops on his knee, with a ring in hand and asks her to merry him.  She says yes.  But now they have two months to put together a wedding

That’s the story’s setup.  Of course, since the wedding is so rushed, friends and family of both parties believe that Sandra must be pregnant.  And both Sandra and Jason have to tell "the curious" that no this wasn’t the issue.  The larger difficulty, however, was that the families hadn’t yet met and both families have their problems.

Sandra’s family (mother played by Angela Bassett, father played by Brian Stokes Mitchell and aunt played by Valerie Pettiford) is moneyed, probably from the Caribbean and lives on Martha’s Vineyard (where the Kennedys live).  While Jason himself had gone to college and is an accountant/broker at Goldman Sachs, his mother (played by Loretta Divine) works for the Post Office and lives in Brooklyn, NY.  Jason’s father is deceased. 

While both families are black, they come from different socio-economic worlds.  And while this is manifested in the movie in many ways, it comes down to the famous African American ritual “jumping the broom,” at the end of the wedding.  Jason’s mother simply can not imagine a wedding without this little ritual, which goes back to slavery times in the United States. Sandra’s family on the other hand notes that their family actually owned slaves at some point (again, probably in the Caribbean somewhere).

Much ensues, various secrets and family demons (on both sides) get exorcized.  And it all ends happily in the end.  But as the preacher, Reverend James (played by T.D. Jakes) tells both Sandra and Jason as they sit down with him a day (_only a day_) before the wedding, marriage even in the best of circumstances is a trial for both.  Again, the movie does end well, and both families had their issues that needed resolving.  Yet, the movie is a good reminder that marriage is serious business and at times various issues and secrets have to be confronted. 

I liked the characters and liked the movie.  Yes, the particulars in the film are at times exaggerated but the point made that a wedding/marriage isn’t simply a party is indeed true and true for all.

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