Brown Sugar

on October 11, 2002 by Rachel Deahl
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The title and seemingly formulaic structure of director Rick Famuyiwa's third feature shouldn't turn viewers off from this surprisingly thoughtful and well-handled romance. Set against the backdrop of the evolution of hip-hop, this rather pat love story is structured around two best friends whose love of music brings them together, as they continually struggle to act on their love for each other.

Sanaa Lathan (proving again here that she is one of the most promising young actresses working today) stars as Sidney, a well-reputed music writer who moves back to her home turf, New York City, to take a plum job at a new urban magazine. Eagerly awaiting her arrival is her best friend, Dre (Taye Diggs), an up-and-coming record executive working for a commercial label he doesn't respect. As they tangle with other relationships, and he abandons his high-profile job to start his own label, the two friends remain of one mind on only one thing: music.

Overtly reminiscent of Lathan's breakout film, "Love and Basketball," "Brown Sugar" nevertheless manages to deliver the familiar boy-meets-girl story in a fresh way. Although Famuyiwa ("The Wood") doesn't delve too deeply into the music itself (aside from vague references to song lyrics and a few older artists, nothing of note is ever actually said about hip-hop), the notion that these two people are knowingly brought together by their passion for the same thing, but unknowingly for each other, is an effective motif. Starring Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs. Directed by Chris Famuyiwa. Written by Michael Elliott. Produced by Peter Heller, Trish Hofmann and Magic Johnson. A Fox Searchlight release. Romance. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. Running time: 110 min

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