Projections - Movie Reviews

Love and Basketball Love & Basketball

Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, on screen last year in The Wood, re-team in the smoothly made romantic drama Love & Basketball. They haven't moved far from Inglewood, now they are in Baldwin Hills, a wealthy black neighborhood of LA.  The four quarter story follows their passion for basketball glory.  With Spike Lee as the producer, neophyte director Gina Prince-Bythewood displays range well beyond her age, on and off the court, and she has a charismatic rising star in Lathan, whose emotionally charged performance will have many rooting for her Monica Wright and Epps' Quincy McCall.

Lathan and Epps don't arrive on the scene at Crenshaw High until the second quarter.  The opening has the 11 year old kids in a pickup game where Kyla Pratt's young Monica is hurt by young Quincy after being outplayed.  She likes him though, and they share a first kiss before Quincy turns more macho.

The second quarter, set in 1988, follows their playing with college scouts on hand.  Quincy is on the path of his NBA dad, Zeke McCall (Dennis Haysbert), and despite his having many ladies, he admits his attraction for a made over Monica at a school dance.  Then, the gradual tension swift become erotic, as the two, lifelong confidantes, have found something in common besides hoops.

Prince-Bythewood, an LA city league player having made a name from TV writing, develops Monica with a challenge that Lathan responds to, being a woman in sports has made her an outcast in her family, especially to her servile mom (Alfre Woodard) who doesn't go to her games and a banker father, an unrecognizable Harry J. Lennix.  Her determination to be a bright, self sufficient woman comes off as hot headed and unladylike.  Yet, Love & Basketball is Whatever It Takes with more truth to it.

Of course, dramatic conflict rises in the second half, as Quincy makes a big decision in foregoing the last three years at USC, before laying some heavy news on Monica, as her curfew prior to a vital game and his dad's unfaithfulness to his, loving mom (Debbi Morgan) has made him opt to go in another direction.  And the last quarter has Monica on a team in Spain and questioning where being all about ball is more important than a lover from afar.

The cool director uses a game of one on one to underline not overlook that which is in front of them, and the pain it entails to make an important commitment, loosely resembling the more resonant Spike Lee effort, He Got Game.  Monica can be emotionally controlled on the court as an intimately, well shot last strategy during the final seconds of the game reveals a discipline that finally deepens over this real life contest.

While the film isn't nearly Hoop Dreams, with a narrative catering to Cinderella, its enthusiastic, inspired direction (a surprisingly mature effort from Lathan) which is more engaging than Epps, will be admired, especially by the WNBA and its supporters.

Love & Basketball

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