Love & Basketball

"OK"

Love & Basketball Review


An inspired labor of love about sports and romance in which the female lead is an athlete, too, "Love and Basketball" is one for the "why didn't anybody think of this before?" file.

For decades, the women in sports movies have to settle for being glorified cheerleaders while the men took all the glory as athletic heroes of various varieties. But writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood sets this picture in the world of college basketball where the couple in question (played by Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan) are both gifted ball players.

It's an idea whose time has definitely come, and what's more it makes for swell dramatic conflict since Quincy (Epps) has it easy as a heavily-recruited wunderkind and Monica (Lathan) is frustrated in her second-string role on the school's much-neglected women's team.

Friends since childhood, Q (for that's his cool-dude nickname) and Monica meet as 10-year-olds when her family moves in next door to his, and on day one she shows him up on the court in a driveway pickup game that sets the mood for all the smartly-composed game scenes to follow with bum-rush editing set to New Edition's toe-tapping, kid-friendly "Candy Girl."

An antagonistic friendship forms, percolating with flirtatiousness that ushers the two into high school, where a real romance sparks after their senior dance -- for which tomboy Monica has dolled herself up for the very first time and stunned Quincy speechless.

She's becomes a powerhouse player with a hot-temper that habitually nets her tons of technical fouls. He's the school's star athlete who has college reps beating down his door. Through a twist of fate, they both land as USC and their love blossoms between more of those snappy, vigorously cinematic game sequences.

Piecing together an impressive first effort, Prince-Bythewood gives "Love and Basketball" a contagious air of emotional electricity that carries through every scene, be it a stand-up-and-cheer home game accompanied by energetic hip-hop tunes (MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee) or a quiet moment in which Epps and Lathan demonstrate their palpable chemistry.

She doesn't skimp on details, either, developing complex relationships (Monica is resentful of her mom's domesticity, Q's dad is a philandering, aging NBA player) and plumping her characters with observant touches of endearing personality (Q knows all Monica's game stats off the top of his head).

Epps and Lathan (who also co-starred in "The Wood") give strong individual performances, pulling back the curtain on their insecurities and exposing the fact that the both have a lot to learn as their relationship goes south under the stress of college sports.

Lathan's character touches are especially effective -- the fact that she doesn't know to sit with her legs together when wearing a dress to the school dance, or the way she fidgets on the bench dying to go back in after fouling out of a game.

The director missteps in several places, not showing us enough of Monica's confident moments, for instance, and allowing Quincy to become borderline unlikable when spite toward his philandering father spills over into the ebbing romance. Then there's that unnecessary and conspicuously PG-13 sex scene (Lathan holds her hands over her breasts like they're glued there) with its fluffy, cherry-popping love song and its politically correct nice guy condom cue (she doesn't even have to ask -- awww!).

But forgiving such foibles is easy in a movie with so much personality. "L&B" is smartly structured into game-metaphor "quarters" -- Q's and Monica's adolescence, high school, college and pro careers -- and only in the fourth does the movie lose some of its momentum.

The last act -- their post-college pro years take them in opposite and unexpected directions -- feels like an overlong epilogue since their romantic reunion is obviously inevitable. The pace and the pleasure downshift severely and the story just crawls toward the gimme conclusion.

There's no arguing the appeal of "Love and Basketball," though. Sooner or later, someone was bound to make a sports romance with the romantic leads on equal athletic footing, and this one greets the challenge with exuberance.



Love & Basketball

Facts and Figures

Run time: 124 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st April 2000

Box Office Worldwide: $27.7M

Budget: $20M

Distributed by: New Line Cinema

Production compaines: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 71 Rotten: 16

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: Chris Warren, Jr. as Kelvin, as Young Monica, as Monica Wright, as Quincy McCall, as Camille Wright, as Lena Wright, as Young Quincy, Jess Willard as Jamal, Naykia Harris as Young Lena, as Nathan Wright, as Nona McCall, as Zeke McCall, Al Foster as Coach Hiserman, Colleen Matsuhara as UCLA Coach, as Shawnee, as Kyra Kessler, as Coach Davis, as Jason, Erika Ringor as Sidra O'Neal, as Kerry

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.