Not so Clueless

The first thought in my mind here was that this was a black Clueless. Then I thought, well, was Clueless that white? We've got Dionne and Murray featured fairly prominently, but I have to admit they fall somewhere between tokenism and a truly diverse cast.

My point, however, is that we start out with a strong, self-assured female character, narrating the movie in a somewhat self-aware, we're-in-a-movie-but-I'll-act-as-if-I-don't-know-that way. Here, Shante Smith is career-minded woman who appears to have the same level of confidence and ability in matters of the heart as well. For the first several minutes, we hear all about her friends and the guys they are with, how they come crying to her for advice, and that Shante is the one always in control of everything.

And then her guy, Keith, makes the mistake of going out with a female coworker for drinks after a long day and being caught with Shante. This would have been an easy movie if Keith had just explained what happened, and Shante accepted it.

But Keith explained what happened. And Shante accepted it. Yet we still have a movie. Why? Because neither of these two think such a situation can be resolved so easily. Shante thinks Keith can't get off so easily, and Keith is just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

If it's not obvious yet, this is the so-called idiot plot, or at least a variant of it, where people misunderstand each other and we wouldn't have a movie if they'd just talk things out.

Where the movie, at its heart, is really the same thing as Clueless is where our heroine ends up learning that she is not, after all, in control of everything as she thought - that she was simply clueless all along. It works in Clueless because of the light comedy around stereotypes. Here, the strength of Shante's confidence actually gets in the way of the power of the realization. That confidence has driven the movie hard for too long for the pace to let up enough to have an actual epiphany. We just end up with another fairly sappy ending and some mild assurance this sort of misunderstanding isn't going to happen again.

I harp on quite a bit about voiceovers, it's true. Yet this is a class of movie it works for because it's part of what the movie is - it would fundamentally alter this film to remove that continual commentary on what was happening. If you compare this to so many other movies where you'd lose nothing by taking out the voiceover, you'd start to see what I'm talking about.

To enjoy the movie, you'll have to enjoy the ride - relate to the back and forth between these two hopeless self-martyrs, trying to retain their pride while getting back the one they want. The execution isn't bad for a light comedy, but it never quite strikes as deeply as the filmmakers want it to.

I love the idea of this movie, but the movie itself I can't love. Something should have been done about five minutes in, either to balance out the stories of Shante's friends, or to bring down the tone. I never quite believe Shante is so in control because we are assured way too strongly that she is.

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