The Best Man
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee
Review by Matt Heffernan
Since Taye Diggs helped Angela Bassett get her groove back last year, he has been a very busy actor. Already this year, he has appeared in Go and The Wood. While none of these films were a major hit, they did not go unnoticed, and Diggs is quickly becoming a significant leading man. Before his first foray into big-budget Hollywood excess, The House on Haunted Hill, he has taken the time to appear in yet another small, but charming film that will help cement his future status as a star.
Diggs plays Harper Stewart, an author whose first novel is getting wide acclaim before it is even released. His girlfriend, Robin (Sanaa Lathan) is concerned that his book is too auto-biographical, and that the "soulmate" heroine represents another woman. He tries to assure her, and everybody else, that it is a work of fiction, loosely derived from his experiences and friends in college. His old college friend, Lance Armstrong (Morris Chestnut), is getting married, and Harper is invited to be the best man.
Lance's sister, Jordan (Nia Long), is a producer at BET, so she got an advance copy of Harper's book. By the time Harper arrives in town, nearly all of his college friends have read it, since they are still in touch. The last person Harper wants to read the book is Lance, because he and his fiancée, Mia (Monica Calhoun), are very obviously portrayed, and a long-held secret could jeopardize their wedding. It also becomes apparent that the heroine in the book is based on Jordan, who Harper had a very close, but platonic friendship. Jordan has always been unlucky in love, and sees this reunion with Harper as a chance for happiness with the man she has been closest to emotionally.
The Best Man could be best described as a combination of The Big Chill and Deconstructing Harry. Again, we see a close group of friends who are reunited , and now their lives are being made public in a poorly disguised memoir. Diggs and Long each have interesting roles, and the chemistry they have together really works. There is a natural feel to the friendships that are portrayed, which is probably indicative of a highly synergetic and creative set.
Director Malcolm D. Lee (with the help of cousin Spike, who produced) makes a good debut and shows a great ability for creating a romantic comedy/drama. One thing he need to work on, though, is the editing. A good 15 minutes could have been cut from the film, and the ending goes on for nearly forever. These shortcomings of a novice director are compensated with a charismatic cast, who manage to make the film work in its distended state.
This film should at least be a hit within the African-American community. It's a shame that films with an all-black cast rarely attract a mainstream audience. The themes presented are quite universal, and should be equally enjoyed across cultural lines. Equally unfair is that Diggs has to branch out of films like The Best Man and The Wood to get noticed by Hollywood. For now, the separate-but-unequal arrangement still exists in the filmmaking business.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Best Man (1999/I)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan