Director: Sanaa Hamri
Writer: Kriss Turner
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Simon Baker, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Golden Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, Mike Epps, Donald Faison, Alfre Woodard, Earl Billings, Blair Underwood
Seen on: 23.1.2016
Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) knows exactly what she wants and what she wants her life to be. At the moment this means that she is focused on her career while dreaming of the perfect black guy to marry. But after spending yet another Valentine’s Day working long hours, she agrees to a blind date. Much to her surprise Brian (Simon Baker) turns out to be white, but also damn charming. Still Kenya doesn’t want to deviate from her plans, so all she does is hire Brian as her landscape architect. But will she be able to keep her distance?
Something New is a charming little film that strengthens its romance with a discussion of racism and racial relations. It’s not particularly subtle about that, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
Kenya overtly states that she wants a black man. It’s not only a question of personal preference, but also of shared experience, something that becomes apparent when Brian snaps at her later in the film whether she always has to make everything about race and whether she can’t just let that topic rest for a night, betraying his privileged position. White people (in the USA) are allowed not to think about their race. If they want to think about it, that’s great and they get all kinds of brownie points for it. But black people are constantly reminded that they aren’t white and thus their race is always present. They are never allowed to not think about it. Kenya probably wouldn’t have had that fight, that hassle had she dated a black guy. But of course you can’t choose who you fall in love with and you certainly won’t find a partner you won’t have any fights with at all.
It is definitely clever though that the film tells the story from the point of view of a black woman. Not only does that mean that we get to see a black community in which the white dude is the outsider and not vice versa, we get a story about a black woman’s decision and not whether she is accepted as the prize or not. That Brian is a total dreamboat straight out of a romance novel (he’s basically screaming “I’m the perfect guy” in almost all of his scenes) does make things easier in that decision process, but he is not the only good guy in the film, so it’s not a total shoe-in, at least if you’ve never seen a rom com before.
Leaving the racial angle aside for a moment, what we get with Something New is a rather classic romantic film with extremely likeable characters and a nice sense of humor. Lathan and Baker have a very nice chemistry with each other, but it was almost even better to see Kenya with her girlfriends and the dynamic that was developed there.
It’s easy and satisfying watching and it doesn’t have to be more than that, but it can be – and that is a very nice combination that Hamri pulls off with a light touch.