Oct. 23, 2002 "Brown Sugar" opens in a documentary-style format with hip hop artists like De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Russell Simmons and Doug E. Fresh answering the question: When did you fall in love with hip hop music? For the movie's main characters, Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs), this moment came in 1984, when as teenagers they found an endless source of strength from the music and each other.
Fifteen years later, Sidney and Dre continue their love affair with music Sidney as the editor of Gotham hip hop magazine XXL and Dre as an executive at Millennium Records yet their close friendship seems to be missing one important aspect of intimacy. Both have found romance with others, yet sparks between them indicate that true love may have been found only in each other.
Romantic tensions rise when Dre turns to Sidney, instead of his wife, Reese (Nicole Ari Parker), with his disillusionment of Millennium Records. Sidney is Dre's confidante, and Dre shares with her his plans to start his own label, Brown Sugar, after Millennium refuses to sign the talented MC Chris (Mos Def) but opts to take on a gimmicky black and white rap duo called Ren and Ten.
Initially dedicated to her work rather than a personal life, Reese is warned by her best friend Francine (Queen Latifah) that she is turning into a character from a Terry McMillan novel. After interviewing a basketball star, Kelby (Boris Kodjoe), Reese gets things started romantically and the two become engaged, yet it is clear that no one can oust Dre from her heart. It's not long before Dre and Sidney's significant others become threatened by their friendship and everything comes to a head.
Film critic Angel Cohn says that director Rick Famuyiwa's "Brown Sugar" is similar in several respects to his debut, "The Wood," which also featured Diggs, Lathan and a wedding. "But the dialogue is snappy and hip, and the film makes a real effort to add some unexpected twists to the otherwise formulaic story," Cohn says.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times commends the film's thoughtful and sincere characters. "'Brown Sugar,' which charts romantic passages in these lives, is a romantic comedy, yes, but one with characters who think and talk about their goals, and are working on hard decisions," he writes.
"Brown Sugar" is as much a tribute to hip hop as it is a celebration of friendship and love.
The 1 hour and 48 minute film is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.
It opens Thursday at Market Square East on St. Thomas.
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