Just Wright

Most, if not all, romantic comedies follow the same formula. Boy meets girl/girl meets boy, boy likes girl/girl likes boy, girl starts dating someone else/boy starts dating someone else, boy and girl share their feelings through passion, dilemma tears them apart, love brings them back together. It’s a formula that is tried and true. Director Sanaa Hamri and screenwriter Michael Elliot don’t change a thing about the formula. They do, however, give us a couple we can root for.

Queen Latifah stars as Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who has yet to find Mr. Right. Her parents, Janice (Pam Grier) and Lloyd (James Pickens Jr.), and best friend, Morgan Alexander (Paula Patton), believe it’s because she sends off a tomboy vibe. She loves basketball (especially hear team, the New Jersey Nets), eats an actual meal at dinner (as opposed to salads), cracks jokes and doesn’t dress up for special occasions. Their theories tend to out correct, as every date she goes on, the guy tells her they’re not ready for a relationship, but would love to be friends (I’ve heard that before).

Following a Nets game, Leslie bumps into Scott McKnight (Common), the Nets’ star player, at a gas station. After helping him out (he was frustrated regarding a call about a charity event and couldn’t figure out where the gas tank was), he invites her to his birthday party. It is obvious there that they have good chemistry together, but Morgan jumps in and steals McKnight for herself after Leslie told her she had no interest in him. Aside from an occasional visit, Wright and McKnight (I wonder if they tried to make that rhyme) are able to hold back their personal feelings.

After an injury on the court sidelines McKnight, Leslie is hired to be his physical therapist. There emotions for each other start to run high, but they hold them back due to Scott’s engagement to Leslie’s friend, Morgan. Trouble arises when Morgan dumps McKnight, supposedly for loss of love. Leslie discovers that it’s because she wants to be somebody, and being married to a (possibly) former basketball star won’t net her that. Despite altercations, Leslie keeps her job with McKnight, and their emotions start to run wild.

This may not sound like much. If anything, it sounds like virtually every other romantic comedy out there (even the basketball backdrop isn’t new). What sets it apart is the platonic relationship between Leslie Wright and Scott McKnight. Queen Latifah and Common have splendorous chemistry together, both pulling in great performances (Common is a little flaky here and there, but he makes up for it when he’s on screen with Latifah). They’re both genuinely nice people who share the same love of basketball and jazz that brings them closer together. Leslie Wright is easy to root for and connect to, while McKnight comes off as a stand-up gentleman. When he’s injured, you feel sorry for him. You wouldn’t wish an injury on anybody (at least I would hope not), but you’d rather see the arrogant jerk who needs a wake up call on life to be injured then the man who has earned his spot and asks for nothing more. You spend the majority of the film rooting for the two to get together, that when they finally do, you can’t help but applaud with joy.

All’s not well in Just Wright. I had no problem with the same, re-hashed plot being used. What I did have a problem with was the same, re-hashed dilemma near the end that drives Leslie and Scott apart. Hamri had a perfectly built injury that could have driven these two apart for awhile, making for an understandable argument. A fight that would have given the audience more reason to root for them to get back together. Instead, Hamri retreads back to an obstacle already dealt with that was both forced and dry. I’ve already seen this predicament, why did I need to see it again?

The editing could have used a bit more polish as well. There are jump cuts that happen too quickly, while some take too long. The worst offense is the overuse of Final Cut’s effects. There are numerous scenes where the editors use the box effect. If you don’t know what this is, it’s the effect used in movies and television shows where, usually during a montage, the editor crunches three or four different scenes together at once, by putting each one in their own box. This cuts down on time, keeping the pace of the film steady. Nobody informed the editors here of that. These effects go on for too long, with one in particular showing the same scenario in four separate boxes. It made no sense why it couldn’t have been fully blown up.

Just Wright may suffer from a re-hashes plot and iffy editing, but it more than makes up for that with the lead couple. Queen Latifah and Common have some of the best chemistry I’ve seen in awhile. They’re characters are down-to-earth people who are kind and relatable. The direction of Sanaa Hamri is smooth, with none of the story being rushed. You may know exactly where the plot is going, but you can’t help but root for Leslie Wright and Scott McKnight along the way.

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