Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, Debbi Morgan
Director: Gina Prince
A film that does what it says on the can. It features love and it features basketball; and for the sake of variety it also features the love of basketball, and basketball getting in the way of love. Not too enticing a premise for an audience outside of America you may think. And it is true that certain aspects of the plot that centre on the machinations of the American high school, college, and professional basketball recruitment systems may be only partially understood by audiences outside of the USA. But this should not provide too much of an obstacle in what is essentially a simple linear storyline enjoyably and emotively told.
Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) are neighbours in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles. They both harbour ambitions to become professional basketball players, as well as a grudging mutual admiration for eachother both on and off the court. The film tracks the undulating course of their passion for basketball and eachother through high school, college, and professional life. This makes for a simple, well-constructed modern romantic drama featuring universally strong performances from a cast without star names; and whilst the film necessarily contains plenty of basketball action there is also a big enough human aspect to the drama for non-sports fans to enjoy the film.
Elements of Cinderella and daytime soap opera (every major character is in some way flawed) combine with the on-court scenes to produce a highly accomplished effort from first-time director Gina Prince-Bythewood. She rarely succumbs to weak quick-fix plot devices (although the introduction of Quincy’s throwaway fiancee is a glaring exception). Spike Lee is one of the film’s producers and the fact that LOVE AND BASKETBALL is not as acerbic or embittered as his own films often are should ensure that it appeals to a wider audience.