Stella pushed the envelope-- and in that, if only that, it has merit. By showing that an all black cast can attract a wider audience (and interestingly, it's usually white folks who don't like the movie.. one begins to wonder why?) and a black actress, Angela Bassett, prodigiously talented, brilliant, and as a bonus, beautiful, can convincingly portray a woman who is torn between what she has always been taught is right, and what her heart is telling her is right.. is a timeless story.
Add to that the crackling comic relief of Whoopi Goldberg, and two very funny sisters representing opposing views and lifestyles, and you have a nice mix. More envelope pushing? One of the sisters is married to a white guy -- nothing is made of it, it just is. The point made, of course, is that interracial marriage isn't something odd or different or in need of explanation or commentary. One of the better ways to attack institutionalized racism, racism that is bred into us as we grow up, is to show images that combat those assumptions and to make those images as nonchalant and matter of fact as possible. This was done very well in Stella.
Of course, if one doesn't like romantic comedy, or if one nurses prejudice, consciously or subconsciously, the movie won't be appealing.
I, however, found it charming, funny, enjoyable, and delightful. I loved Angela Bassett's performance, I am in awe of her talent and her beauty (yes, a woman can appreciate another woman's beauty.. we need not attack each other, we can be sisters, can we not?) and I loved Whoopi Goldberg's comic relief. Taye Diggs? Well, we shall see. He's certainly easy on the eye, and he did a credible job with his role. I'd like to see him in more before I decide if he's good, great, or somewhere in between. Based solely on Stella, I think he's good, and very promising.
The movie did not track the book as much as I would have liked -- I don't want to say in what ways because I don't want to ruin it for those of you who are going to go and read the book.
Do read the book if you haven't -- it's excellent, wonderful reading. My favorite, in fact, of Terry McMillan's work.
Another point; Stella is depicted a stock broker. Some found that to lack credibility. Why? Are those folks trying to suggest that there are no women or black women stock brokers? I can tell you that there are, and introduce you to a few if you'd like -- I know several of them. And money? Yes, there actually are well to do, single, black, mothers who are professionals in a number of fields including law, medicine, academia, business, government -- everywhere. Not enough, but they're there, and they're forging the way for more to come.
Someone else said that it wasn't credible that the Winston character would fall so quickly in love with the Stella character. Why not? Stella was portrayed as beautiful, intriguing, very intelligent, she looked no older than 25 -- why would a 20 year old not want to be with a woman like that? Why would any man not want to be with someone like that? Of course it was credible.
The movie was humorous (remember Ms. Thang "How nice that you're visiting with your mother." rofl, that was hysterical.. "oh yes, I've missed my mother very much".. (pause)(wicked grins followed by a long kiss that had nothing maternal about it) .. as Ms. Thang flounces away, having received her comeuppence very nicely. I guffawed and loved it.
I'm truly mystified by those who didn't like the movie. I admit to its flaws, and the fact that it didn't track the book in some ways.. but it had so very much going for it.. everything from the envelope pushing of interracial marriage, and the age difference.. where usually it is the man who is older and professional, and the woman who is younger, and no one finds that odd or different. How many men are married to women 20, 30, years their junior? Society says nothing about that.. A 20 year difference? How often do you see a 45 year old man with a 25 year old woman? Every day, everywhere. It's something that goes without comment.
Here we have it reversed, and we see how hard it is for the female character to break the bonds of that double standard. But she does. Isn't that a role model, a positive break from the typical older male/younger female scene that we usually see and take in stride as completely acceptable and quite normal. Reverse it and everyone gasps.. "Isn't she old enough to be his MOTHER?!?!" While the men who are old enough to be their wives' fathers (and grandfathers) pass without a blink of the eye, without a comment.
But the social commentary, the envelope pushing -- it was there and it was good, but the movie's humor, the love story, the laughter.. that's what made the movie great fun. It could have just won points on social commentary, but it didn't.. it won them on purely cinematic/acting grounds. The fact that it also contained social commentary was simply a huge bonus.. and we know that psychologically, folks are more likely to absorb social commentary when it is presented in a way that isn't a polemic, a lecture, a heavy-handed "after school special."
My vote.. On the book- 9/10 On the movie 8/9 or better.
Comments on this overly long review? > I don't usually come back to see how my comments are received. Flame mail? Please don't, because it's a negative waste of time.. but real discussion I always welcome, whether the other person agrees or disagrees, as long as the issue is discussed, and personal attacks are not made.
Someone suggested watching White Palace, and said that it is the same story, but grittier, with Susan Sarandon (a great actress) and James Spader. I think I'll rent that next ;)