It’s very possible we pinned too many hopes on this week’s film providing inspiration, or, at the very least, a compelling romance between two musical icons. Either way, this week’s pick–starring no less than Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur–was not quite the hit we expected. As a result, prepare yourself for us to bust open the emergency Christmas seal earlier than usual. We could really use something painfully upbeat and comfortingly predictable, which this film…is not.
After witnessing the murder of her boyfriend, a young woman turns to poetry to cope, and begins to connect with an aspiring musician.
In 1990s Los Angeles, hairdresser Justice looks forward to a night out at the drive-in with her boyfriend Markell. It’s not long before the evening takes a tragic turn when a couple of Markell’s rivals spot him, shooting him point-blank in the head. Following her boyfriend’s death, it’s clear that Justice is in mourning, keeping to herself, writing poetry, and wearing mostly black.
Inevitably, everyone in the world feels the need to give advice to Justice on getting out more, finding a man, smiling…all of the usual nonsense. This includes postal worker Lucky, whose interest in Justice is extremely unwanted, creating immediate tension between the two.
Justice has found an escape in writing poetry, while Lucky aspires to a career in music. However, he must also find a way to provide a safe home environment for his daughter, whose mother is an addict.
Whenever possible, Lucky heads up to Oakland with his fellow postal worker, Chicago. Oakland is home to Lucky’s cousin, a talented musician and collaborator. Justice’s bff Iesha happens to be dating Chicago, and brings her pal along for the ride…unaware of the tense history between Justice and Lucky.
The trip is off to a rocky start that escalates to name-calling, and the crew isn’t on the road for long before an enraged Justice decides to get out and walk. After finally managing to get Justice back in the truck, the group spots a family reunion that happens to waft the mouthwatering scent of perfectly cooked barbecue for miles.
More or less blending in at the massive family reunion, where Maya Angelou is one of the aunts, things take a turn when a tipsy Iesha begins flirting with another man. After Chicago starts a fight with him, the group leaves the reunion, only for fights to break out all around between Chicago, Iesha, Lucky, and Justice.
As Justice and Lucky get to know each other better, Chicago and Iesha seem to be rapidly unraveling. Will the connection between Justice and Lucky survive when most of the group finally makes it to Oakland and tragedy strikes?
2/5 Pink Panther Heads
Agh, I don’t know where to begin with this one. With leads like Janet Jackson and Tupac, it feels impossible to go wrong…but there are so many problems with this film. First, Tupac’s character is incredibly problematic, referring to Janet Jackson as a bitch or a ho multiple times. I wouldn’t expect a film made in the early ’90s to age perfectly, but it happens so many times that it’s distracting.
In fact, Janet Jackson’s character as a whole doesn’t get a lot of respect (nobody’s calling her Miss Jackson here). After Justice’s boyfriend is shot in front of her, the people in her life are on her case to stop being depressed already and find a new man. No one offers her any particularly meaningful emotional support or even seems to recognize that she must be deeply traumatized. Her coping mechanism of writing poetry feels underdeveloped, and I expected Lucky to encourage her and/or recognize an opportunity to collaborate. In fact, Justice as a whole isn’t given enough character development, as what feels like her story initially becomes overshadowed by Lucky.
The plot itself is flimsy and doesn’t do much to distract from how flat our leading characters are. On top of all this, we don’t get any musical numbers whatsoever from either Janet or Tupac, which feels like a huge missed opportunity. Our incredible cast definitely deserved better.