Sunday 24 November 2013

From the archive: "The Best Man"

The Best Man, a directorial debut for Spike Lee's brother Malcolm D. Lee, focuses on a group of college friends reuniting for a wedding, and it's notable in one respect: where Spike regards the urban environment as a pent-up jungle full of serial killers, racists and revolutionaries, Malcolm's city view is more along the Giuliani/Friends line, with nobody more threatening than an ambitious TV producer stalking the streets. Taye Diggs is the writer whose first, nakedly autobiographical novel has just passed among his friends, some of whom feature in its pages; the set-up - creative type in an uncertain relationship heads home to be confronted by those he left behind - is an African-American take on talkfests like the recent Beautiful Girls, and a more ambitious film would perhaps have explored the inner-circle paranoia beyond the minor revelations and mild fisticuffs we get here, or pushed the art-imitating-life theme to the extremes of something like Deconstructing Harry. As it is, Lee, working from his own script, lets in a little too much poker-table testosterone, and spends considerably more time around the lap-dancers at the bachelor party than he does at the hen do. Diggs gives a charming, laconic performance, but the ladies - Nia Long and Sanaa Lathan among them - get shorter shrift. With few real edges, the material heads into big-day farce that is rather too familiar from countless other wobbles down the aisle; its only real surprise is that the best man doesn't forget the ring.

(January 2001)

The Best Man is available on DVD through Universal Pictures UK; a sequel, The Best Man Holiday, opens in cinemas nationwide from Friday.

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