‘Jumping the Broom’: A Review

*Spoiler alert*

There are little things about Jumping the Broom that make you smile. 

How detailed Paula Patton's work creating a spoiled rich young woman whose optimism is really just a infantile belief that she can always have her way is. How awesome Julie Bowen's marvelously physical performance is. How Mike Epps somehow brings surprising nuance to a character that is broad on the page but becomes warm and real as he plays him. That Salim Akil manages to find work for not one, not two, but three grand dames of acting – Loretta Devine, Angela Bassett, and Valarie Pettiford. And, crucially, how Loretta Devine with just a look or reaction conveys so much about Pam Taylor that the script doesn't give you till the end.

That last point is really important because that failing of the script is what makes Jumping the Broom, enjoyable though it may be, the latest example of how class divisions within the black community are sometimes disingenuously portrayed in popular culture as just about working class and poor Black people hating on, and being resentful of, the success of upper middle class Black people. In life, we know that those class tensions work both ways.

While the film shows a little of Sabrina's family looking down on the Taylors, the film overplays Pam Taylor as, essentially, the antagonist of the film. It is clear that the script is unwilling to risk making Sabrina and Claudine unlikeable even as it somewhat revels in making Pam look quite monstrous. The Watsons' bougie qualities are nearly always conveyed in passing as if they are just quirks, but the Taylors are all written broadly for comic relief and are always shown to be alternately envious and contemptuous of the Watsons' wealth.

In other words, on the page the Watsons feel a little more like real people than the Taylors do.*

The script establishes rather well the relationship between Patton's Sabrina and Bassett's Claudine, which is critical in order for us to care that they turn out to not be mother and daughter. But the script spends no time establishing the relationship between Alonzo's Jason and Devine's Pam, I guess, assuming that we don't need to know why Pam so thoroughly dislikes Sabrina or why Jason would keep Sabrina away from Pam until the end. 

The film just relies on assumptions about the "overbearing single Black mother" to color in Jason and Pam's relationship and to give the audience something to assume is motivating Pam's behavior. It is not till after Pam nearly ruins the wedding that we find out why Jason has kept Sabrina away, that we find out how lonely Pam is, that we get any real indication of just how unhealthy their relationship might really have been before Sabrina came into the picture.  

That scene where Jason tells Pam off is powerful stuff, but it simply comes much much too late and, as such, it punishes Pam in a way that doesn't allow for us to consider her humanity. Which is sad because there really is dramatic potential in the strange, powerful, and sometimes unhealthy, relationships between Black men and their mothers.

 

*In fairness, this is a romantic comedy so no character is terribly well-drawn, but the fact that we don't ever even find out what Jason does for a living (other than that he was "promoted to vice president") is just one example of how the Taylors are underwritten.

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
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2 Responses to ‘Jumping the Broom’: A Review

  1. oh well says:

    You do find out what Jason does for a living. Ricky says that Jason is a colleague of his at Goldman and Sachs. As opposed to Jason giving his bio, you see Ricky revealing this tidbit of info.

  2. tigger500 says:

    Thank you! I missed that.

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