Monday Movie: Brown Sugar, by David Bax
There’s such a youthful energy mixed with a bit of sloppiness in Rick Famuyiwa’s solid but flawed Dope from last year, that it almost feels like a directorial debut. The Sundance hype probably helps in giving that impression. But, no, Famuyiwa has been making features since The Wood in 1999. However, it’s his second film, 2002’s Brown Sugar, that may bear the strongest connection to Dope. An unabashedly romantic rom-com, the film is also just as much in love with hip hop as the characters are with each other. Sanaa Lathan (whose talent remains underappreciated by Hollywood) stars as a music journalist for real life rap magazine XXL and Taye Diggs plays a record executive. The two have been friends since childhood, bound by their love of music. Famuyiwa follows their friendship as the years and changing situations bring them closer. Of course, they come to realize they love each other but there’s more romance and chemistry in their discussions about hip-hop history than in an entire movie’s worth of sex scenes. In Dope, the affection the characters had for music was depicted as nerdiness. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the same thing the characters in Brown Sugar feel. It’s love.