Rated R - Running time: 2:05 - Reviewed 8/14/98

From the same writing team who gave us Waiting To Exhale (1995) comes How Stella Got Her Groove Back, another sappy romance of a similar tone. Writer/producer Terry McMillan, whose Waiting was her only other project to date, has again enlisted the help of the more accomplished Ron Bass to help turn her novel into a screenplay. Based on her own experience with a Jamaican man half her age, McMillan's self portrait will probably only play to its target audience (African-American women), who might see Stella as a character to emulate: a woman with no real problems.

Stella (Angela Bassett) is a highly placed, 40-year-old stock broker in the San Francisco area. She's a single mother with lots of work, lots of stress, and lots of money, but no time to spend it. She takes a trip to Jamaica with her best friend Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg), where she falls in love with 20-year-old Winston (Taye Diggs) and has great sex for the first time in years. The downside is, now she has to explain it to her sisters, Vanessa (Regina King) and Angela (Suzzanne Douglas). Vanessa, the more brash of the two, really has no problem with her big sister's fling, but Angela, who is more "refined," is horrified. Meanwhile, Winston is struggling between his adolescent tastes and trying to be a grownup for the woman he loves.

There's only one thing missing from this story, and it's the main ingredient: conflict. Oh, sure, Stella is inexplicably downsized out of her job when she returns from vacation, but this causes almost no difficulty in her wealthy life, and it is offered back to her at a much higher salary after the company comes to its senses. And there is a death thrown in as if to make up for this film's embarrasing lack of meaning, but it is a minor diversion. Some of the film's best acting is done during this digression, however, in the ad-libbed hospital scene between Bassett and Goldberg.

I have no problem with the acting in this film, nor with Jeffrey Jur's cinema, which is full of beautiful shots of tropical sunsets, but the storyline is little more than a sitcom episode drawn out to over two hours in length. It is mostly pith and scenery, and it drags terribly at times. Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan has fashioned a lovely commercial for Jamaica and captured a few nice acting moments. But are we supposed to feel sorry for a fabulously attractive and wealthy woman, who is being followed around by a fabulously attractive man young enough to be her son? A woman whose biggest problem is hearing "cradle robber" from her sister or deciding whether to buy a Beemer this year or another Mercedes?

Please. If you're gonna make a chick flick, fine. But have a little respect for the women you're targeting. They can handle more than pretty pictures and cheap sentimentality. ***

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive