How Stella Got Her Groove Back – directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan – Romance. A twenty-year old male decides to mate with a woman twice his age, who is skeptical. 124 minutes color 1998.
* * *
It’s wonderful to see how much better an actress Angela Bassett became in the six years between this and What’s Love Got To Do With It? in which all she does is forced: forced smiles, forced fear, forced singing, forced sexuality. Here she simply settles into the part and enjoys unexpected ways of delivering it, and all praise to her. The movie is rubbish, of course, because the relationship between a twenty-year-old male and a forty three year old female here is patently flimsy, and everything everyone says against it is right. Of course there is a mutual sexual attraction between herself and Taye Diggs, who certainly is a beautiful creature. Indeed at one point his naked ass is offered up to our extended contemplation as twere a marital guide. He is also sweet and bien élevé and good in bed and chums with her son and is a decent human being too, but none of that is sufficient grounds for a marriage. For they have nothing in common culturally, financially, or conversationally, and the relationship has no spiritual foundation whatsoever. The result is a black and white value aesthetic, or, let’s calls it a grey and pink value aesthetic, since it presents black females as pink romantic fools, and those black females who are not romantic fools as grey killjoys. All of this is leavened considerably by a brilliant performance by Whoopi Goldberg as The Ribald Best Friend. She brings a quirky vitality to every scene she plays, including and especially her death scene. This wonderful performance makes the film worth seeing twice. Unless, of course, you can’t bear the idea of seeing it even once, as the diminution of the sexual intelligence of black women, and the delusional decoration of women in general, threatens to stupefy us in its blare of garish romance.