A Date with Spalding
Love and Basketball
Review by Ross Anthony

This film takes the court with all the fervor, spark, and talent a crowd loves to see in an underdog. Playing a fantastic first quarter and scoring from every corner with flashy moves; the film nearly secures an "A+" by half time. But like a team satisfied with a dominating lead, it just runs down the clock in the second half.

New neighbors, a couple of ten-year-olds, shoot some hoops. The innocence of their youth drives though the shaky defense - in this case a jittery camera. The boy is cocky, albeit uneasy about a girl in HIS sport. The girl is tough. Eventually embarrassed by the "female," the boy shoves her to the ground. And so begins a beautiful romance that teeters on the rim between love and basketball.

Older now, Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, are still the best of friends by high school, whether they're dating each other or not. Of course, we know they're in love ... but do they?

Gina Prince-BythewoodThe film's dialogue is excellent, fresh, a high percentage deliverer. Sanaa asks her sister, "Ever been in love?"
Sister: "Yeah."
Sanaa: "Ever been loved back?"
Sister: "Sure ... after I cut 'em off."

Kudos to the casting director are in order as well. The younger ballers are very believable (and talented) matches to their teen successors. Apt at the sport, Epps and Lathan (Sanaa learned the game in preparation for the film) can still handle the screen. Epps is an outstanding actor, if you agree, check out "The Wood." Lathan ("Best Man") is captivating, strong and lovely in her bull-headedness.

I love the direction in this movie (second half excepted). John Swanbeck, director of "Big Kahuna" said (in our recent interview), "faces will be my landscape." Writer/Director of "Love and Basketball," Gina Prince-Bythewood, (an athlete herself) paints mountains of emotion with her actors' eyes and speaks mouthfuls with their bodies. In another example of her directing finesse, we play 30 seconds of the game from the point of view of Lathan, hearing her thoughts, seeing what she sees. It's great first person basketball.

Unfortunately, what seemed to be a formulaic, but nonetheless "A" level production, strikes a lull during a "strip basketball" sequence from which it never quite regains its momentum or timing, nor does it really climax. Faulty story line choices also hinder the climax; the film has a tidy ending, but fails to deliver a swell. It pains me that such problems reduce the film's total score to "B+."

If this talented freshman could just have kept its head ... "Love and Basketball" would have made it to the championship game. Still, it's a memorable production, and I'll be looking forward to future efforts from these gifted people.

  • Love and Basketball. Copyright © 2000.
  • Starring Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodward, Dennis Haysbert, Glenndon Chatman, Kyla Pratt.
  • Written and Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
  • Produced by Spike Lee and Sam Kitt at Newline.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:05:11 PDT