I’m the blues in your left thigh… trying to become the funk in your right

I was curled up in bed the other night watching the latest episode of VH1’s Single Ladies when Stacey Dash’s character, Val, made reference to a film called Love Jones, touting it as the obviously superior choice of movie entertainment over Blades of Glory for her night in with her man. A quick curiosity-fuelled search on Google led me to a slew of positive reviews for the 1997 film, including one that called it a “cult classic” for African Americans. Between that grandiose statement and Roger Ebert’s review calling the film “smarter” than your average romantic flick, is it a wonder that I sat down to watch Love Jones already cynical? Something so hyped was sure to disappoint, no?

Au contraire, Love Jones is indeed all that and quite frankly, more. Why? Well, there are many reasons, but like with any successful film built on the premise of a romantic relationship, the bulk of the credit has to go to the film’s two leads (after all, a good script can only go so far).  In this case, actors Larenz Tate and Nia Long manage to bring this particular love story to life with an authenticity rarely seen onscreen. Tate plays Darius Lovehall, a smooth-talking, poetry-spouting, jazz-listening type of dude who says things like “When people that have been together for a long time say the romance is gone, what they’re really saying is that they’ve exhausted the possibility,” all while fixing you with a deep stare and taking a seductive drag off his cigarette. Long, on the other hand, plays Nina Mosley, an aspiring photographer who’s just gotten out of a long-term relationship with Darnell from Girlfriends (a.k.a. Khalil Kain) and is in the process of moving out of their previously shared apartment.

When these two creative minds meet one night at a poetry slam, Darius steps up to the mic and, by all accounts, lays his swag on thick as he recites a poem “he’d like to call… ‘A Blues For Nina'” to Long’s character across the smoke-filled room. Therein lies the title of this post. Video below.

Unfortunately, Darius’ little stunt fails to impress Nina in the way he’d hoped. It’s all that overt “sex talk” that’s got her rolling her eyes. Sex is great and all, she says, but… what about love? And that’s the underlying question throughout Love Jones as Darius and Nina illustrate for us (against a backdrop of smooth jazz stylings) how two twenty-somethings navigate their way from just “kickin’ it” to being “the one” the other’s been searching for. Theirs is a love story so artistically and emotionally rich, you’ll find yourself appreciating the nuanced performances given by Tate and Long more and more with each viewing.All necessary evidence lies in Nina and Darius’ first date.  Video below.  See the awkward distance they keep as they walk together down the street? The goofy smiles and childlike flirtation that bounce between them as they discuss Sanchez and Mozart? How about the total cuteness that ensues when the two get their “bump and grind” on at the Wild Hare?  The chemistry absolutely radiates off these two — so much so that Nina’s decision to “go out like that on the first date” seems reasonable if not inevitable considering the circumstance (i.e. him being Darius Lovehall/Larenz Tate and all).  Get it, girl.

Titanic, what? The Notebook, who?