The Best Man (1999) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

First rate performances and a deftly handled tone are just a few of the key aspects that makes The Best Man an exemplary romantic comedy. The debut film from Spike Lee’s cousin Malcolm D. Lee sports a solid screenplay vividly brought to life by a top-notch cast. The Best Man is also remarkable for setting the groundwork that would pave the way for a host of lesser imitators as well as Tyler Perry’s dumbed-down big-screen theatrics 5 years later.

Harper has recently penned an autobiographical novel, thinly disguising his college friends and romantic encounters into the seemingly fictitious book. Things look promising, his long-time girlfriend (Sanaa Lathan) wants to take the next step, Oprah has chosen his novel as a book club selection, and he is going to act as best man in his friend’s wedding. It’s not until Harper returns to his New York neighborhood, that he realizes his work of ‘fiction’ has created a certain level of animosity from the people who inspired the story.

One member of the crew, a selfish Lothario named Quentin (Howard) plans to expose the truth behind a decades old secret that will have major ramifications on the wedding taking place in three days time. It’s up to Harper to come clean about past indiscretions that have present day repercussions. On top of this Harper has rekindled a desire for his childhood friend, Jordan (Nia Long) that threatens the future of his current relationship. This sounds like it could be the base plot elements for a dark drama, but The Best Man is a comedy, complete with the big wedding day finale and cast dance off.

As the plot goes through its sometimes well-traveled paces, it defies cliché by intelligent writing that has the weight and a feeling of authenticity. Taye Diggs is the star, but this is an ensemble piece even if (a still relatively unknown) Terrance Howard walks off with the picture. The distinctly male point of view and coarse language will turn off easily offended viewers, but the honesty of the dialogue should be savored and serves as a nice counter balance to the schmaltz of Terry McMillan’s trite offerings.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee
Stars: Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut

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