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Laughs, realism propel “The Best Man Holiday”

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The AMC Metreon 16 was filled to the brim on November 11 as the final few trickled in to subtly occupy the last seats available in the theater for a prescreening of Malcolm D. Lee’s “The Best Man Holiday.”

“The Best Man Holiday” was the sequel following Lee’s “The Best Man” which came out in 1999. Even though “The Best Man Holiday” is a continuation of “The Best Man,” I found that I was able to understand the film despite not having seen the prequel.

Courtesy of Michael Gibson.
Courtesy of Michael Gibson.

The movie begins with an atypical presentation of photos of the past that comes to life through dialogue between characters that gives us a better understanding of what the movie will be about, despite never having seen “The Best Man.”

One of the most significant examples was a violent, abrasive scene where a man threatens and punches another man in the face for having slept with his wife shortly after he and his wife got married. This short clip brings us to the entire premise of “The Best Man Holiday.” Former best friend and best man, Harper (Taye Diggs), slept with Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wife, resulting in the break off of an otherwise valuable relationship.

Lee’s management of a multitude of different situations from the characters lives is excellently executed. The foreknowledge of what could come of the reunion that Lance holds at his home by request of his wife, Mia (Monica Calhoun), gives us a good idea of what to expect when these different personalities conjoin in one room to celebrate Christmas.

Jordan (Nia Long), a program executive at MSNBC, criticizes a colleague over the phone when Harper enters her office. Both of them stand awkwardly across from one another as Harper’s subtlety completely fails as he looks at Jordan. His acting in this scene is impeccable as there is a sense of forlorn desire that is communicated as he sees Jordan’s new boyfriend come enter.

The audience is left with this emptiness, forcing us to turn face the realities of fallen love and broken engagements. Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) hassles her husband to respond to Mia’s invitation, claiming that she has received more than one invitation to the gathering. Lathan’s performance is outstanding as she demonstrates the concept of opposites attract; she constantly counters Harper’s pessimism that drives him to self-imposed isolation.

It is not until Harper, once famous author, turns in a draft for a future novel and experiences brutal rejection from his boss that he is forced to come up with a new idea before his wife’s delivery. Soon after, he is fired and dumped with the sympathetic advice from his boss that he write a biography on his former best friend, Lance who is now a devoted father and famous running back for the New York Giants.

Suddenly, Harper changes his mind and insists that him and Robyn travel to Lance’s mansion for an unexpectedly hilarious yet devastatingly tragic visit. Previous to the event, Harper is busied as he intensely researches Lance’s life and surreptitiously writes notes in a small black journal. Here we begin to get Harper’s struggles in openness as he refuses to answer his wife’s questions regarding his project on Lance’s biography.

Harper’s character is heroic yet realistic at the same time. He refuses the help of others, insisting even to his billionaire friend Quentin (Terrence Howard), that he is not in need of money to help in providing for his future family. Moreover, Harper appears to be a compulsive liar, unable to fully express his needs to others.

Jordan’s character complements Harper’s beautifully, allowing us to see their personalities with more clarity while they share in dialogue that brings out their truer selves. Jordan insists on helping Harper with his project by telling Mia about his endeavor to write a biography on her husband, Lance. Jordan, further defining her ‘unstoppable woman on a mission’ personality asks Mia to discuss this matter with Lance without Harper’s full consent.

It is at this point that Mia, the woman who brings everything together, is introduced. Mia is the Benvolio of “The Best Man Holiday,” the woman who ensures that all of the guests are meaningfully reconnecting with one another.

“The Best Man Holiday” is a must-see for adults (Rated R), as it explores broken relationships that can be brought back to life, the concept that love is needed between all people and that the life we live now has real consequences and amazing possibilities.