By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
There’s a burgeoning indie film scene in Brooklyn these days, to the point where it seems like it’s self-parodying now (just look at the descriptions of the 90% of the films that competed at SXSW this year). Girls fills my quota of jaded, overprivileged white people complaining all the time, though, so these films generally bore me to tears.
Hannah Horvath, you’re my one and only.
I make one exception, though. There’s also been a steady stream of African-American films coming out of Brooklyn, and I’ve found them to have a lot more to say, and a more interesting delivery, so far. Directors like Andrew Dosunmu and Terence Nance have captured my interest and my attention, and you can now add Shaka King to that list.
Newlyweeds, his feature debut, is about a young couple who both like weed… a lot. Nina (Trae Harris) was a world traveler, and wants to travel again. Lyle (Amari Cheatom) likes… weed, while he’s not working as a repo man for a shady rent-to-own outfit. When pressures at his work, a dashing young weed fan (Colman Domingo) who works at Nina’s museum, and gasp!, a lack of weed collide, will their tenuous relationship survive?
First off, a toast to this film getting made. Low-key, realistic African-American dramas and comedies of this sort seem like they’re barely getting released these days, but they are, and if you keep an eye on blogs like Shadow and Act, you’ll find some gems like this.
The joy of this film is in the acting, and Harris, Cheatom, and Domingo in particular deliver charismatic, likable performances. There’s no villains or truly bad people here, just well-rounded, realistic characters, which makes both the comedy and the drama that much more effective. Domingo in particular reminds me of a young, funny Idris Elba, but all of these actors deserve stardom. Also…
Sheeeit, it’s Isiah Whitlock, Jr.!
The script is an odd beast, full of laughs, surprisingly powerful bouts of pathos, and odd lo-fi 70s blaxploitationish interludes that are as hilarious as they are random. In the end, though, it’s an addiction story, not just to weed exactly, but to escaping our everyday realities and concerns however we can. Lyle makes a point of saying he doesn’t drink, but you can do that, or play video games for hours, or vege out in front of the television all night- it doesn’t matter. Sure, some habits are more distinctive than others, but in the end, if what you’re really after is hiding out from real life, don’t worry, real life will find you.
With as many tones as this film employs, it’s amazing it holds together as well as it does. Even so, it gets cartoony at times for such an otherwise realistic story, and the tone can seesaw a bit. Also, the title… it’s terrible. The main characters aren’t even newlyweds. It’s a lame attempt at working “weed” into things, almost something you’d think of when you were…
Newlyweeds, despite that dire title, is a funny, well-acted, affecting drama that will hopefully springboard all involved to bigger and better things.
Take a Drink: whenever someone tokes up, of course
Take a Drink: whenever that turns into long strings of nonsense talk
Take a Drink: whenever travel is mentioned
Do a Shot: for every repo run gone wrong