Brown Sugar (USA, 2002)
Predictions: Well, we had to look this movie up because it was a replacement/suggestion movie, so Kat remembered the plot and could not make a prediction. Alex, happily, had totally forgotten, so she predicted that this movie was about two rival pastry chefs who fall in love despite their competing businesses.
Plot: Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan first discover their mutual love of hip-hop as children. Flash forward almost twenty years, and Sanaa Lathan is now the hip-hop reviewer for the LA Times, while Taye Diggs works at a big record label in New York. They are still best friends, and Sanaa Lathan is moving back to New York to be the editor-in-chief of a…hip-hop magazine?? (Note: we know nothing about hip-hop, so a lot of this movie was a little beyond us.) She’s also, on the side, apparently, writing a book about her love of “hip-hop” (read: Taye Diggs).
They reunite at a party, where Taye Diggs also decides to propose to his fancy lawyer girlfriend, whom he met like a hot second ago. Fancy Lawyer Girlfriend is beautiful, but Sanaa Lathan is like, idk, this seems like a bad idea, no reason, just normal friend feelings that I have. And Taye Diggs is like, WHAT? You’re totally mistaken! She’s perfect. So he marries her. But not before he and Sanaa Lathan accidentally make out, whoops. How might that accidentally happen, one wonders? Maybe because every time they hug it’s like, for an hour. Normal friend stuff.
Anyway, then Sanaa Lathan starts going out with a basketball player (who has hilarious aspirations of being a rapper, side note), and they get engaged, and Taye Diggs is not psyched, even though he is still married. Meanwhile, Taye Diggs – tired of being a sell-out – has quit his job to start his own record label, a venture that Sanaa Lathan fully supports, but Fancy Lawyer Wife does not. But maybe this is partly because Taye Diggs did not consult Fancy Lawyer Wife in the slightest before quitting his job, and then after he did quit immediately ran off to talk to Sanaa Lathan about it, instead of his spouse. Also, maybe his wife supported the idea of him having, you know, any money ever. Whaaaaat.
Eventually, Taye Diggs catches Fancy Lawyer Wife cheating on him, so that marriage falls apart, and Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan do some normal friend stuff to cope with it. By which we mean, they have sex. Taye Diggs, who has always been into Sanaa Lathan, is like, OBVIOUSLY THIS IS HOW IT WAS ALWAYS MEANT TO BE!!!! But Sanaa Lathan is like, nope, jk, still marrying Basketball Player. They do not talk for a while, as you might imagine. But she ends up breaking off her engagement anyway, because Basketball Player is not as dumb as he seemed and knows she’s, like, just not that into him. Sanaa Lathan rushes to find Taye Diggs, but she unfortunately conveniently spots him sharing a moment with Fancy Lawyer Ex-Wife, so…that scuppers that.
Then one day, Sanaa Lathan publishes her book and is on the radio promoting it – coincidentally on the same radio program that Taye Diggs’s client Mos Def’s song is debuting on – and Taye Diggs hears her talking about her love of “hip-hop,” aka him. He calls in, and they confess their love for each other via the phone, while he rushes to the station in a cab. They make up (and out) (obv).
Best Scene: So, there was a whole subplot with Taye Diggs wanting to sign Mos Def and Mos Def being like, eh, pass; but then, after Taye Diggs quits the sell-out label, they become pals. Mos Def joins Taye Diggs at a New Year’s party at Queen Latifah’s (so many famous music people in this movie, you guys…!), and Basketball Player confesses to Mos Def that he harbors dreams of being a rapper. Would Mos Def be Basketball Player’s mentor???? Mos Def does not want to. Mos Def judges Basketball Player real hard. It’s funny.
Worst Scene: At the sell-out label, Taye Diggs was forced to work with a black/white duo that called themselves the “Hip-Hop Dalmatians.” Every time they appeared on screen, we were just like…no. Just no.
Best Line: “Oh, shit, we ain’t never gonna eat now.” – Mos Def, voicing what we, too, would feel, if we were at a party at Queen Latifah’s with wings and crab cakes, and suddenly total stranger Basketball Player was like, hey everyone, I’m gonna propose now, before dinner. NO. FOOD FIRST.
Worst Line: Ummmm. While Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan’s friendship was very charming, their declarations of romance often left something to be desired. Just…too cheesy. So hard to choose a line. So many of them were so cheesy. Also, everything said by the Hip-Hop Dalmatians was abominable.
Highlights of the Watching Experience: Well, tbh, it was just nice to watch a true romcom starring black people that was not horrible. While we might not really have been its target audience (see: total lack of hip-hop knowledge), we still appreciated sighting many of our pet romcom tropes in the wild: people pretending to be just friends when they’re clearly in love, people acting like a couple and then being shocked that other people perceive them that way, and our new fave, the super-long platonic hug.
How Many POC in the Film: Almost everyone, and good-looking ones, too. Hooray!
Alternate Scenes: Here’s the thing about romcoms. There’s always the good part of the romcom (the part with them hanging out together, denying their feelings) and the whatever part of the romcom (the part with their job subplot, or whatever). This movie was maybe a touch heavy on the latter, although we did greatly enjoy Mos Def. We also wished that there had been a little more “com” to go with the “rom” between Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. Perhaps a few more scenes with them charmingly bantering, rather than being so moody and troubled.
Was the Poster Better or Worse than the Film: Probably worse. The poster, while charmingly autumnal in its color scheme, raises some questions. Specifically, okay, at first you just think she’s hugging him from behind – how cute! Are they a couple? Are they friends? Look at Taye Diggs in his classy V-neck! But then, upon closer inspection…WHAT is Sanaa Lathan doing with her leg?? Wow, guys. This is some totally normal, platonic shit.
Score: 6.5 out of 10 platonic smooches. This movie disappointed us slightly, because the premise (two friends who are clearly in love, and everyone but them knows it) is one of our favorite tropes, but the execution was not as delightful as we might have hoped. It was…definitely a romcom, and yet some of the scenes had shades of romantic drama, which was weird. Occasionally it felt like Taye Diggs and Mos Def were starring in a romantic comedy, while Sanaa Lathan was auditioning for a moody indie film. Nonetheless, a solid score and a reasonably entertaining platonic makeout-fest.
Ranking: 20, out of the 80 movies we’ve seen so far. Not bad! While we were slightly bored at times, at least they actually got together, unlike in How to Be Single. (What garbage. Still mad.)