Our Favorite Roger Reviews: Love Jones | Chaz’s Journal

“LOVE JONES” review by Roger Ebert

“Love Jones” is a love story set in the world of Chicago’s middle-class black artists and professionals–which is to say, it shows a world more unfamiliar to moviegoers than the far side of the moon. It is also frankly romantic and erotic and smart.This is the first movie in a while where the guy quotes Mozart, and the girl tells him he’s really thinking of Shaw.

The movie stars Nia Long as Nina, a professional photographer, and Larenz Tate as Darius, a novelist. After an opening montage of great black and white Chicago scenes (Nina’s photographs, we learn), they Meet Cute at the Sanctuary, a club inspired by the various venues around town for poetry slams, cool jazz and upscale dating. His moves are smooth: He meets her, walks to the mike, and retitles his poem “A Blues for Nina,” reading it to her across the smoky room. She likes that. “Maybe next week you’ll write something for me ,” he says. They engage in flirt-talk. “There are other things than sex, ” she tells him. Like what? He wants to know. She takes a pen and writes” love ” on her wrist.

As their relationship develops, we see it in the context of the world they live in, a world of African-American artists, writers, teachers and intellectuals. The film’s writer-director, Theodore Witcher, says he wanted to suggest a modern Chicago version of the Harlem Renaissance, but this is the 1920s filtered through modern eyes, and some of the parties they attend have conversation that sounds like hip campus faculty talk.

The relationship between Darius and Nina proceeds, but not smoothly. Is it just a sex thing? They talk about that. She’s on the rebound from her last man, and tells Darius “the timing is bad,” but it starts looking pretty good. And their chemistry, as characters and actors, is hot. There’s a sensuous scene where they go to her place, and she loads her camera and tells him to strip, and shoots him while he’s teasing her.This nicely turns the gender tables on the famous “Blow Up” scene where the photographer made love through his camera.

Witcher’s screenplay is not content to move from A to B to love. There are hurt feelings and misunderstandings, and Nina goes to New York at one point to see her former finance de ella and find out if there’s still life in their relationship. I didn’t buy that New York trip; it seemed clear to me that Darius was her love for her, and if she was merely testing him, why take a chance of losing a good thing? Darius starts seeing another woman, she starts dating his best friend, and a completely avoidable misunderstanding develops.

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