The Caveman's Valentine Movie Review
Samuel L. Jackson (Unbreakable, Shaft) teams up with Lemmons again (he played the philandering husband in Eve's Bayou) to star as the disturbed and homeless Romulus. Thankfully, no easy explanation is ever uttered as to the nature of his psychosis. He lives partially obsessed with a fantasy world in which exotic dancers inspire his hands on the piano, and his ultimate nemesis resides in the Chrysler building.
His daughter, Lulu (Aunjanue Ellis, Men of Honor) is a New York City cop. She cares about her father but has difficulties getting through to him as he insists on living in a Central Park cave and allows the voices in his head to control his actions. One of those voices is ex-wife Sheila (Tamara Tunie, The Devil's Advocate, also the narrator from Eve's Bayou), which leads him in his internal struggle.
Romulus becomes even more obsessed with his archenemy after a young man is found frozen to death in a tree outside his cave. He learns from a local street urchin that the deceased kid was a model for a famous, popular, and abusive photographer (Colm Feore, Titus) and begins to hunt the mystery. He tries to enlist his daughter's help, but this appears a simple case to the department, so he is on his own.
What follows is an intricately woven tale of sorting reality from the surrealism that lay siege to one another in the mind of Romulus. Even when he doesn't follow rules of common sense, it's difficult to argue with his actions or his need for justice. Because he is mentally innocent, it would be unthinkable to blame him for stupid remarks or walking into danger.
The question of whether or not he will succeed in taking down a murderer, or simply making more a fool of himself to his daughter, is kept grippingly open throughout. Because Romulus' mind can be struck with otherworldly ideas at any moment, the audience is kept in just as much ignorance as he is.
The only tiresome moments in the film are Romulus' interchanges with upper crust businessman Bob (Anthony Michael Hall, Pirates of Silicon Valley). Bob and his wife are the stereotypically ignorant white folk who find Romulus such an intriguing revelation to their otherwise boring world. Luckily these scenes are kept brief and are solely used for plot purposes, like cleaning Romulus up for his investigation of the photographer.
Lemmons' vision is once again brought to focus through the talented cinematography of Amy Vincent. Vincent shot Eve's Bayou as well, and again with The Caveman's Valentine shows a beautifully artistic eye in blending fantasy with reality. The distinction between the two is overt enough to be noticeable and yet never overwhelming because the fantasy is shot as crisply as the reality. It's easy to become captivated by scenery that's so visually compelling and adds weight to the mixture of internal and external worlds the audience is forced to live in for 105 minutes.
Lemmons is one of a meager handful of black female directors. One can only hope that successful adventures such as The Caveman's Valentine and Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust have far reaching effects on the Hollywood machine. With help from peers such as Samuel L. Jackson, who helped produce both of Lemmons' films, perhaps other filmmakers will get their chance.
Caveman, he love you.