Posted: 05/12/2011


Jumping the Broom

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Jumping the Broom is the first African-American-centered movie that I have seen in a long time that didn’t have the obligatory church scene, with the choir jamming, the preacher “whooping” and the sistahs consumed by the Holy Ghost. Now I’m not saying that this is a bad thing—I am just saying that Jumping the Broom was a nice movie, even without the standards that go along with some Black movies.

In fact, Jumping the Broom, save for the title, is one of those movies that, had it been based on bourgeois and low-end white families, I would have questioned why the script couldn’t have been filled with Black people. Well, I’m glad I didn’t have to question it, because thanks to Bishop T.D. Jakes and others, Jumping the Broom is filled with beautiful, snotty and working-class Black folks. And therein lie the issues.

Jakes and company have made an entertaining movie that is so cool to watch—what with Angela Bassett (Mrs. Watson) as the bourgie mother of the bourgie bride, played by Paula Patton, with a bourgie father and housekeeper, all living on Martha’s Vineyard.
Man, it made me want to pack my Louis Vuitton luggage, take the ferry from New York and go looking for this fabulous family!

Laz Alonso pays the groom-to-be Jason, and he’s no bum, as he works for Goldman Sachs. But his mother, Loretta Devine (Mrs. Taylor), is a civil service worker, tolling away at the post office. Alonso and Patton, Sabrina, meet and, since she’s headed to Japan after six months of courtship, the two decide to marry. What follows is a peep into socio-economic classism and privilege among Blacks that’s not normally offered in Hollywood movies.
The two families meet for the first time when Alonso’s family and mother trek their suitcases to Martha’s Vineyard. Devine comments that the bride’s family was putting on airs, because they sent a car to fetch them from the ferry, instead of being hospitable and sending a family member. But little did Devine know that sending limos for people was normal behavior for Bassett and her family.

However, Devine resents the wealth, and she’s really aching because her son is leaving her and getting married. Bassett could give a rat’s ass about how Devine is feeling, because as she told her, “my family weren’t slaves, we owned slaves.”
This attitude, the chef, the appetizers and dinner menu (without greens) sets Devine off and makes her really want to pack up and leave. To add insult to injury, she brought along her department store dress, and Patton had a couple of dresses custom made for her to wear to the wedding. Also, the group had come into New York to eat at the restaurant 21 and hadn’t invited Devine—this hurt her as well.

After much tension and feeling so frustrated and left out, during the pre-wedding dinner, Devine shares a secret that she heard being discussed between Bassett and her sister. And, amazing, it was the same secret shared in the latest Tyler Perry movie. The secret upsets the apple cart, so to speak, and Patton calls off the wedding, until Alonso can find her at the beach and convince her that joining him as they both explore the rest of their lives together would be the best thing she’s ever done.

The wedding is back on, along with the Casper Slide and the broom ritual, but not a chicken wing in sight! Halleluiah! Jumping the Broom is a good movie, filled with all the wedding plans, stresses, tension and nerves that go along with planning a wedding. There are some surprises, and Mike Epps, DeRay Davis and Tasha Smith have such good comedic timing. It’s in theaters now.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.

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