Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Alfre Woodard, Dennis Haysbert, Debbi Morgan, Harry J. Lennix, Boris Kodjoe, Gabrielle Union, Monica Calhoun, Regina Hall, Erika Ringor, Christine Dunford, Tyra Banks, Al Foster
Written by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexuality and language
Running Time: 124
Date: 04/21/2000

Love & Basketball (2000)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

An exceptional feature writing and directing debut by Gina Prince-Bythewood, adding her name to the too-short list of Black women filmmakers, Love & Basketball is a wise, emotionally grounded tale of two ballplayers who grow up together, joined by their love of basketball and their clumsy, unspoken feelings for each other. The film is divided into four "quarters," starting in childhood as Monica moves to town and meets her next-door neighbor, Quincy — whose father is a star player for the Los Angeles Clippers — and subsequently beats him in a game of one-on-one. They grow up to become Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, excelling on their high school teams, and remaining friends and neighbors. In one terrific scene, Quincy's parents are arguing late at night. He crawls through his window and taps on Monica's. She wordlessly lets him in, gives him a pillow and blanket, and he lays down on her floor. It's an implicit understanding. Later, they are accepted at the same college, where the realities of pro sports begin to intrude on their dreams. Despite the film's length and its extended time period, Prince-Bythewood keeps everything alive and in the moment; nothing feels skimmed over. Her confident touch easily draws us in. Alfre Woodard and Dennis Haysbert play Quincy's parents, both giving excellent supporting performances, while fresh-faced Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, and Tyra Banks play peers of the central couple. Spike Lee produced.

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