"I don't know why your heart doesn't do what your head tells it"
It's easy to call Brown Sugar a kind of black When Harry Met Sally. But can we get away with calling it a love letter to hip-hop? For that's what it's trying to be.
We start, not with our protagonist Sidney (Sanaa Lathan), but with a series of interviews with figures from hip hop answering the question, "When did you fall in love with hip hop?" This music is a constant theme throughout the film. Sidney writes about it. Her Harry-esque childhood friend Dre (Taye Diggs) is a producer for a successful label. Sindey's opening voiceover talks about how she grew up with the music, matured as it matured, and sometimes feels a need to get back to her roots - referencing the fact that hip hop has become more about making money than making any artistic statement.
The main thrust of the plot is that Sidney and Dre have unresolved romantic feelings for each other which have never been addressed. When Dre gets married, those feelings come out in the open. Sidney responds by letting her next relationship get serious - getting engaged even. In the meantime, she's advancing in her career and writing a book, while he's trying to the push the career a proper hip hop artist, a cabbie (Mos Def) who is wary of the trappings of success.
The setup is good, and the actors are adept in letting it play out in front of them. The main thing here is that there's very little surprise. You can set a watch to the plot of this film.
As a When Harry Met Sally kind of film, Brown Sugar is merely adequate. The worth in watching this one lies in the viewer's attitude to the music, which could tip the scale either way. Hip hop is celebrated here, for sure, but does it qualify as a love letter? Inasmuch as it expresses not just love, but growing pains as well, it succeeds.
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