Posted: 01/11/2009


Not Easily Broken

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Not Easily Broken
By Elaine Hegwood Bowen

Sometimes you have to let life turn you upside down so you can live right side up….
Another love story, well I call it a love story, that benefits from the great direction of Bill Duke opened January 9—Not Easily Broken.
The movie centers on the Johnson Family, Dave and Clarice, who were married about 10 years ago and seem to be hunting for the love that brought them together in the first place.

Taraji Henson, fresh from a great performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, plays Clarice; and Morris Chestnut plays Dave.
The movie’s title is taken from the wedding vows when the officiating minster laid a three-stranded rope across the couple and said that the strands represented both of them and then God’s presence in their relationship, and they should not easily be broken. He urged them to keep God in their lives, and by doing this, they’d always be able to work things out.

But fast forward with Dave providing narration, and the couple is at a crossroads; she’s been too controlling and he’s just trying to find that which will give him peace, since his life’s dreams were shattered when he broke his leg while pursuing a pro baseball career.
Now he is busy trying to get a construction company off the ground, and she’s a successful Realtor, whose lifestyle seems to be way over the top. And while Clarice won’t admit it, they are struggling with the household bills, trying to keep up with the “Joneses.”

Another major problem with Clarice is that she’s allowed her mother Mary, played by Jenifer Lewis, to have too much say in her married life. That, and the constant nagging, is pushing Dave away, but not necessarily to another woman.

He finds solace in his job as the coach of a boy’s baseball team, all the while yearning for a son he can raise and call his own. One of the boy’s on the team, Darius, has a thuggish ex-con for a father, played by Wood Harris, most recently of HBO’s The Wire, and a native Chicagoan.

Harris and Dave bump heads all the time, especially on the basketball court, where they appear to have a rivalry that began back in high school. Dave was offered a scholarship to college, and Harris took the other route, landing in prison for a few years. But Dave confronts Harris, and finally gets him to relent and let Darius remain on the team.

Trouble between the couple is really exacerbated when Clarice suffers a bad leg injury after a car accident, in which Dave is driving. Her mother blames Dave for the tragedy, and all hell seems to break loose from that point on.

The couple weren’t on the best of terms before the accident, and Clarice having to depend on Dave; the mother moving into the home; and Dave feeling as if his manhood and position in the home are further questioned and ridiculed only further ignite the discordant flames that had already been burning in the home. “I feel like I’m just visiting this marriage,” Dave tells Clarice.
And as with any troubled marital relationship, enter the physical therapist, who is single and has a young son of her own, and emotions are further heightened.

After having been the one who had been used to doing all the dumping, roles change, and Clarice is now faced with the prospect of losing her husband, and she really thinks that the physical therapist has something to do with it.

Duke’s filming of the basketball scenes in black and white lends a great contrast, as if he’s showing the players in their purest, basest form. Themes of black family life, where ambitious men often take a back seat to their overly-ambitious wives, and infidelity (especially the inter-racial variety) are equally covered. “The world took away man’s reason for being a man,” Dave says, while reflecting on the way women have taken roles in society that once were dominated by men.

The Johnson marriage is finally salvaged, but not after some provocative conversations between Clarice and her meddling mother. “I gave you everything in me that he didn’t take,” Mary tells Clarice, referring to Mary’s abusive husband.
Not Easily Broken is based on a book by the mega pastor T.D. Jakes, and he has a short cameo in the film. It’s deep on spiritual reflection and ultimately redemption and forgiveness.

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

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