“Let Go and Let Flow”
At the beginning of the romantic comedy, Something New, four African American professional women sit in a fancy restaurant toasting each other as they celebrate Valentine’s Day. The celebration is a familiar one for the four as they are all single. However, Accountant Kenya McQueen is confident that eventually she and her friends will find fulfilling relationships with their ideal partners.
Her friend Suzette, is a bit skeptical. She is familiar with a study that 42.1% of African American women don’t find their ideal mates. Most of them are professional African American women like the quartet.
So, the women decide to counteract their quest for their IBM (Ideal Black Man) by taking on the advice of a self-help author: “Let go and let flow.” They all promise to be more open to the kinds of men they would consider dating. Kenya joins in the toast sealing the agreement even though she’s still quoting her “list.” Her friends roll their eyes as she rattles off her requirements in a mate (taller, college educated, not crazy, no kids, and on and on).
Kenya’s open to the idea in theory, but will she be able to put it into practice?
She often tells her naive but friendly coworker who wants to fix her up that she “doesn’t do blind dates,” but she decides to take the plunge. The result is nothing like she dreamed. Her co-worker sets her up with Brian who is “perfect” for Kenya. She breaks her rule and goes to meet Brian and is disconcerted to find out that he is the one thing she never expected – he is white. After one of the most awkward first date meetings you have ever seen, she excuses herself and flees. But that’s not the end of it.
When Kenya expresses her admiration of a friend’s beautiful landscaping, her friend introduces her to the talented landscape architect who did the work. Suddenly she finds herself facing Brian again.
He seems to hold no ill will against her and after she hears his amazing plans for landscaping her backyard, she agrees to hire him. Kenya plans to make some changes to her new home, but some major changes in her life are due to follow.
Eventually, she realizes that she is attracted to Brian, and he is undoubtedly interested in her, but he is nothing like the IBM that has always been a part of her plan.
Friends, Family and More…
Saana Lathan is really convincing as Kenya. Her character is an accomplished and talented accountant, and this is apparent in her interactions with her colleagues at work. She is also almost painfully fixated on living her life a certain way. She wears her hair smoothed back in a tight bun. The decor in her house is almost uniformly beige. When she walks into a spider web, she completely loses her cool. She seems unable to relax completely in her own home.
Primarily, Kenya feels like dating a white man would distance her from her own race. She is certain that she needs a partner who has lived with problematic race relations. Part of what she looks for in a partner is someone who understands this aspect of her life. As she tells Brian, “I just happen to prefer black men. It’s not a prejudice, it’s a preference.”
“Sure,” Brian replies, “it’s your preference to be prejudiced.”
The movie does a very good job of showing why she is like this. She tells Brian a story about her restrictive childhood at one point. Alfre Woodard appears as her condescending, overbearing, snobbish mother, and she definitely does not appreciate a “let go, let flow” lifestyle. “Kenya, look at this place,” she admonishes when her daughter finally adds some touches of colour to her beige decor. “You’ve gone all Bohemian, my dear, what on earth has gotten into you?” Importantly Kenya’s parents are successful African Americans who are very proud of their heritage, and Kenya believes that she has a responsibility to uphold that.
At work, Kenya is the only black woman in a predominantly white male profession, and she feels acutely aware of it. When she is in the middle of a career making project, their client is visibly uncomfortable with her. He asks for the person in charge when he first meets her and tries to ask Kenya’s white male assistant questions which she can answer. She must deal with the notion that a black woman is often expected to work twice as hard to get ahead. When Kenya meets Mark (Blair Underwood), a handsome tax attorney her family introduces her to and who her mother approves of, she begins to suspect that she has found the perfect IBM for her at last. Perhaps he can prove to be her antidote for her interest in Brian.
There couldn’t be a better choice for Brian than Simon Baker. He is soft spoken, gentle and easy going. Sunny in appearance and persona, he contrasts with Kenya through more than race. As he transforms her wilderness of a backyard, coaxing flowers out of the earth, he encourages transformation in Kenya. He doesn’t impose on her but by gently persisting and asking insightful questions, he begins to plant suggestions in her mind that perhaps her life doesn’t have to follow the rigid path she has chosen. He has something to learn as well as tries to understand Kenya’s struggles and faces the judgment and preconceptions from her friends and family.
When the two are together, they each seem to have an indefinable something which makes an alluring combination. Their mutual attraction is unquestionable. They are a joy to watch and will very likely leave some viewers feeling a bit envious of their chemistry as well. They’re that good.
The supporting cast of Kenya’s friends and family round out the story beautifully. They create a richer world for the movie and provide some of the enjoyable humour of the story. Donald Faison, for example, is really funny as Kenya’s brother. He pops up every now and then, each time with a new girlfriend in tow. He is the perfect annoying, cocky younger brother. It’s nice to see a little of the experiences of Kenya’s girlfriends as they try to let go and let flow in their own lives. They are also Kenya’s support system and act as her sounding board. One of the best people in her life is her father. He is the exact opposite of Kenya’s mother and possibly the best father figure I think I’ve ever seen in a movie.
Love is an Adventure
Like most romantic comedies it might not be too difficult to figure out how the story pans out. But like most good romantic comedies, it’s the journey to the end which matters. The main plot is not the most original, but the depiction of Kenya’s struggles and concerns about race and race relations and Brian’s experiences are unusual. The film is not a heavy, ground breaking analysis of interracial dating; however, it does raise interesting and pertinent questions which will ring true for many couples.
Something New is a very enjoyable romance. It engagingly explores interracial dating and the concept of opening yourself to new things. As Kenya’s father explains, “The point is, love is an adventure, Kenya. It’s not a decision you make for others. It’s a decision you make from your heart.” This is an idea that we can all relate to regardless of our race or life experiences.
Where to Watch: Romance lovers, be sure to pick up the DVD of Something New on Amazon. Or rent to stream on various devices. The adventures of Kenya will draw you in, and you will enjoy the journey right to the very satisfying ending.
Content Note: Rated PG-13 for sexual references.
Have you seen Something New? Let me know your thoughts on this romantic comedy?
Photo Credit: Focus Features
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