Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya McQueen, a lovely young Los Angeles professional woman who seems to have it all, including a successful career and a new home. The only thing missing is a man.
Enter Brian Kelly (Simon Baker, THE MENTALIST), Kenya's charming blind date. The only problem: Kenya, a black woman, is surprised to discover that her blind date is a white man. She can't handle the idea of a prospective relationship with someone who isn't black, but shortly thereafter she hires Brian as the landscape architect for her new home. As Kenya and Brian work together on her yard, their relationship gradually deepens, and Kenya must decide what really matters in life -- love or race?
This was a very interesting, thought-provoking film about an appealing couple, which frankly confronts issues regarding race. It was interesting to me being exposed to a culture where dating outside one's race is still considered a taboo, or at least highly problematic. I live south of Los Angeles and know numerous interracial couples, including black-white relationships, so I was somewhat surprised this was still considered to be an issue in 2006, at least in California.
However, one of my daughters told me last night about a Vietnamese friend whose sister is now shunned by her father for having a relationship with a Hispanic man, so I guess those kinds of stories are still out there if you look hard enough, and it's clearly not simply a black-white issue.
I did find a scene where Kenya feels noticeably awkward even being seen talking to a white man in a Starbucks in a black neighborhood surprising. After all, no one else in the restaurant knew they'd been set up as a date, so why did she feel uncomfortable simply being seen talking to him? Was his race really an issue in that setting even if he were a friend or business colleague?
To its credit, however, the script by Kriss Turner isn't afraid to show people acting less than their best, and it works through the issues to a very positive conclusion. Kenya isn't the only character to grow as a person and learn valuable lessons. I particularly liked a speech made near the end of the film by Kenya's father, played by Earl Billings.
Alfre Woodard plays Kenya's mother. Blair Underwood, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Donald Faison are among the large cast. There's also a fun cameo in the final scene, as John Ratzenberger suddenly pops up in a wordless role as Simon Baker's father.
The movie was directed by Sanaa Hamri. It runs 99 minutes. I especially enjoyed the location shooting around Los Angeles; the cinematography was by Shane Hurlbut.
Parental advisory: This film is rated PG-13 for love scenes and adult dialogue. This is the kind of movie where I wish the filmmakers hadn't felt the need to follow the "modern" crowd and include such moments, as with the editing of perhaps less than two minutes of footage this would be a romantic drama more appropriate for a wider audience. It raises interesting issues for parent-child discussion.
SOMETHING NEW is available on DVD and can be rented from Netflix. It can also be rented for streaming on Amazon.