Writer / Director: Joel Hopkins
Stars: Tunde Adebimpe, Natalia Verbeke, Hippolyte Girardot
The Story: A shy, charming Nigerian-American has to travel across upstate New York for an arranged marriage, but a crazed Frenchman encourages him to pursue his crush on a Spanish cutie making the same trip.
How it Came to be Underrated: I saw this randomly at Sundance and I fell in love with it. When it failed to get much of a release, I was afraid to watch it again—had I merely been intoxicated by the mountain air once again? No, I liked it even more the second time, and everybody who I show this movie to goes crazy for it (and curses the pea-brains who failed to market it properly.)
Why It’s Great:
- It’s a modern romantic comedy! Hey, where‘s everybody going? These days, just hearing those words sets anybody’s teeth on edge, the genre has become synonymous with treachly formulaic crapola. It’s absolutely remarkable that anyone can still breathe life into this tired genre, but Hopkins’ love of life (and filmmaking) is absolutely infectious. Surely he got a bunch of offers to make Sandra Bullock movies after this came out?
- As with Monday’s movie, I fell in love with both the director and the two leads, then watched them all disappear off the radar, at least for a while. Adebimpe was an NYU animator who got shanghaied into acting by his friend Hopkins, so then he became, what else… a rock star, as the unlikely lead singer of indie darlings “TV on the Radio”. According to imdb, the adorable Verbeke ended up on Spanish TV.
- Too often in these movies, the filmmakers tell us who is supposed to be in love and we just have to go along with it. This movie lets us decide that we want them to get together. Even then, the jilted fiancé doesn’t automatically get labeled a jerk. They have to convince us separately that those two don’t belong together. Likewise, no matter how much we love Girardot’s character, we come to admit that he isn’t ready for love. In bad rom-coms, we’re told to root for character we don’t love. In the good ones, we sometimes love them too much to root for them.
- There’s no greater source of conflict than an irrepressible character trying and failing to repress themselves. Once we know who they are and who they’d rather be, then we can enjoy the struggle as their true nature attempts to burst forth with each line.
If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out:? After establishing himself as a rocker, Adebimpe unexpectedly popped back up as another groom years later in Rachel Getting Married and he still had all the same charm. Hopkins finally re-emerged with the quiet Dustin Hoffman / Emma Thompson romance Last Chance Harvey, which isn’t as good as this one but still worth seeing.
How Available Is It?: It’s on DVD and Watch Instantly. The DVD has a fun commentary with Hopkins and Adebimpe
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