Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006 01:55 am
A pale Prince Charming
Dealing with gender and race in one sweet romance
Everyone Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) meets is convinced that she’s a self-assured, independent woman. Indeed, she’s on the verge of being made a partner at the accounting firm where she works, owns her own home, keeps herself fit, and is, some would say, a knockout. But Kenya’s appearance is nothing but a façade used to ward off prospective romantic partners. Her fortress is her career, her defense is constantly working, and her maniacal pace through life prevents Kenya from thinking about how empty that life really is. Kenya’s trials are at the center of Sanaa Hamri’s Something New, a film that not only deals with modern race relations but also the trials and tribulations of today’s singles. Hamri and screenwriter Kriss Turner suggest that the preconceptions that keep some African-Americans and whites apart today aren’t all that different from those men and women contend with in trying to find that perfect someone. That one film would be willing to deal with issues of race as well as those between the sexes seems overly ambitious, yet Hamri does a fine job of not only juggling these two potentially volatile issues but also actually providing some worthy insight into both. The film’s characters are filled with contradictions. Although Kenya and her friends are all successful, independent women, they still cling to an unrealistic notion of the ideal partner. A Prince Charming is rare, and Kenya is smart enough to know this. She simply adheres to this ideal so that she can have an excuse to dump anyone who doesn’t meet her exacting standards. Then she meets Brian (Simon Baker), a man who runs his own business, has a great dog instead of kids, is tall and handsome, and has great teeth. The only problem: He’s white. Hamri and Turner wisely take their time exploring this relationship. Kenya and Brian fall in love not overnight but instead over time something that might not play well in a movie but is far more true to life. Not only must she contend with her reservations about Brian’s race, but she and Brian must also come to terms with their romantic feelings, as well as the fears that they engender. Fortunately, Turner’s script is witty and the performances by Lathan and Baker are just as they should be — natural and unaffected.