Brown Sugar

At the forefront of the 'buppie' sub-genre are names like Rick Famuyiwa, Taye Diggs, and Sanaa Lathan. Now it just so happens that all three are a large part of Brown Sugar, and the combination of these three people help make it a highly enjoyable movie. This is even better considering the basic story is an old one, two good friends that love each other deeply but never admitted it, is wrapped nicely with good performances, and a clever pairing of the friendship with both character's love for hip-hop music. Famuyiwa and co-writer Michael Elliot (Like Mike, Carmen: A Hip Hopera) present an extremely relevant point; that hip-hop music in its current form is becoming stale. It is less about true artistic sensibilities and more about commercialism.

Dre (Diggs, Just a Kiss, New Best Friend) realizes this, and decides to quit his job as a talent scout for a major record label in order to start his own label. He wants to find true hip-hop artists that may not sell records, but earn the respect of critics. His love for hip-hop began as a child. He and his best friend Sidney (Lathan, Catfish in Black Bean Sauce, Love and Basketball) saw the beginnings of hip-hop on the streets of New York. Sidney is relocating back to the East Coast to become editor for XXL. They are both at crossroads in their lives. Dre is marrying Reese (Nicole Ari Parker, Remember the Titans, Blue Streak), and Sidney is seriously dating Kelby (Boris Kodje, Love and Basketball). Their friendship is so strong that when Dre of Sidney have a problem, the other is the first to know. This causes strife in their relationships. Also, the unspoken love that exists between them flares when the other is involved, further complicating matters and straining their friendship.

Everything to this point is standard. But the way that Famuyiwa and Elliot fully flesh out the characters and give them intelligence and emotion is what makes Brown Sugar so enjoyable. Unlike most movies, the people in this movie are smart. They feel real, not like roles. And even though they are smart, they do not realize that they truly love each other. It really helps that the stars are Diggs and Lathan, two charismatic and extremely gifted actors working with good material. Queen Latifah (The Country Bears, The Bone Collector) and Mos Def (Showtime, Monster's Ball) are two of the supporting characters in an understated romance. Latifah and Def are also good actors here, and unfortunately are not on screen too long. Heck, it's hard to dislike Kodje and Parker, so in a way, one feels the emotional turmoil that both Dre and Sidney are feeling.

Famuyiwa's love for music is also evident. There are enough references to make some people's head spin, but this is not about dropping names, and it is done such that if somebody doesn't know who is on the screen, it's not a big deal. . This movie is about how Sidney and Dre's love for hip-hop lasts through the ages. Their admiration and disillusionment for the music mirrors their own relationship as it rises and falls. Famuyiwa and Elliot write them such that they are able to form coherent thoughts and sentences, so their love and confusion are clearly visible. It's easy to see where this movie ends up, but it is a lot of fun going with them for the ride.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.

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