love jones

Larenz Tate, who played the thoughtless, homicidal O-Dog in Menace II Society, and the innocent-turned-haunted-Vietnam-vet in Dead Presidents, became an important transitional figure in the new middle-class cinema, beginning with love jones, in which he is cast as a handsome sophisticated man.

Setting the movie in Chicago's artistic milieu, the writer-director Theodore Witcher depicts, to use his words, “overeducated and underemployed” African Americans. His slick romance, which won the Sundance audience award, heralded something new in black films: the appearance of smart, educated urbanites who listen to jazz and read poetry. Nocturnal life centers on a trendy spot, the Sanctuary, where the characters engage in intellectual discussions about books, music, relationships, and the meaning of life.

What's unusual about the protagonists is that they don't conform to any stereotype. They are struggling, as middle-class Chicagoans, with the same problems faced by whites–how to combine romance and career, how to engage in honest relationships. Despite some racial references, the script, with some changes, could have been used for a white romantic comedy.

New Line got credit for taking a chance with a black love story aimed at a mainstream audience, but, contrary to expectations, the film didn't have crossover appeal.

Despite the complaint that violent films about urban males represent only a narrow spectrum of the black experience, and risk the reinforcement of existing stereotypes, black audiences have been more easily identified for such films than for middle-class movies. It's easier to induce audiences to see Ice Cube in a mediocre film like The Player's Club than to attract them to see love jones.