Love and Basketball

Pay attention to the title Love and Basketball. This is not an ordinary sports movie. In the title, the two are equals, and love retains the first position. The movie delicately weaves the two together, using the game of basketball as a metaphor, and is an impressive movie debut from director Gina Prince-Bythewood. Love and Basketball also fits as one of the movies that fits in the emerging genre of movies where blacks play normal people (like The Wood) instead of gangsters or drug addicts. It's a nice trend and Love and Basketball is a welcome addition as well as a nice change of pace from the current crop of movies. The movie follows the lives of next door neighbors Quincy McCall (Omar Epps, The Wood, The Mod Squad) and Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan, The Best Man, Life). Quincy and Monica two people so perfect for each other that everyone can see it except for them. The two met when Monica moved in next door to Quincy when the two were eleven. Staring then, they embarked on a love-hate relationship that spanned years.

Monica is different because of her love for basketball. She wants to be the first woman in the NBA. She doesn't enjoy wearing dresses, and has a quick temper. Quincy wants to grow up and emulate his father, a player for the Clippers. The story picks up in their senior year of high school. Monica's temper is causing recruiters to turn away, while Quincy is becoming a phenom that recruiters are flocking too. They both end up at USC, and their relationship turns from rivalry to love. Love and Basketball is refreshing because the characters come first and the game comes second. There is no slow crescendo building to the big game at the end, where one point will win the entire championship. Instead, Prince-Bythewood chooses to focus on Monica and Quincy.

Epps and Lathan are great as the principal characters. Epps' choices in movies often flip from good to horrible, but thankfully, this is one of his better ones. The viewer gets to watch Quincy grow up, from a brash arrogant young teenager to an older man, aware of life's limitations. Lathan is better, also playing a character that matures in a realistic way. Monica is driven to succeed, willing to sacrifice other things in life for her dreams. Epps, Lathan, and Prince-Bythewood present complex, realistic depictions of young adults, something often absent from today's films. Supporting actors Alfre Woodard (Mumford), Dennis Haysbert (Random Hearts), and Debbi Morgan (The Hurricane) shine with the time they are given. There is nothing really new about Love and Basketball, but the story and characters are so appealing, and the movie is so well acted, that any flaws (small ones albeit) are quickly forgotten.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 4 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexuality and language.

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