Love and Basketball

Date:   April 22, 2000


Sanaa Lathan   Monica Wright
Omar Epps   Quincy McCall
Alfre Woodard   Camille Wright
Dennis Haysbert Zeke McCall
Debbi Morgan Mona McCall

Directors: Gina Prince 

Official Website: Love and Basketball

“All’s fair in love and basketball”

 Passion is one of the strongest emotions in existence.  It can drive people through their lives, hold lovers together, and tear lives apart.  Rarely in film is the intensity, and its effects captured on screen, because it is an emotion that sometimes defies a clear definition.  Love and Basketball attempts to focus on the two aspects in its title, how desire and want for both can bring people together, and tear lives apart, but also how, if focused in the right way, can bring ultimate happiness and peace to all involved.

The story spans four quarters in the lives of Quincy and Monica who meet as youngsters and share a common passion for the hoops, and seemingly, for each other.  We are taken, very patiently, through their high school years and the playful attraction, into college, where competition increases and ultimately into adulthood, where the final act plays out.

The movie puts a lot on its own plate, dealing with pressures of student-athlete, the expectations of parents, and the stereotypes and societal hurdles in sports today.  In between all that is a true, real love story that is built, developed, torn down, rebuilt, and dealt with in a realistic manner.  The emotions seem real, the attractions, intense and the hurdles to be overcome, seemingly insurmountable.  I know this all sounds like a lot to be dealt with and resolved in a little over 2 hours, but believe it or not, it does, and then some.  The kudos to be passed out here are numerous, but must start with the director, and screenwriter.  They have fashioned a film that has several messages to deliver, about love, and basketball.  How different yet similar they can be, and how one can effect the other.  Yes, it does seem a bit longer than it needed to be, but in the end, there is not a wasted shot or word in the movie. Then there’s that soundtrack, not missing a beat at all with its mix of period music (Digital Underground, Johnny Kemp, New Edition) to a soulfully powerful remake of Simply Red's Holding Back The Years by Angie Stone. It sets the moods of each scene and era with masterful precision.

The key to the believability is in the performances and Prince truly gets the best of all of them.  Epps and Lathan have a real chemistry as you can feel them grow together, celebrate joys, suffer through pains, and strive to be what they desire inside. While Epps seems a little old to be playing this role, it fits his cocky, yet innocent-eyed appearance.  The true shining star though is Lathan.  She comes across as innocent, determined, confident, sexy and vulnerable, all in the scope of two hours.   Woodard, Haysbert and Morgan in the roles of the parents, typify differing examples of expectations, pressures and problems faced in sports today.  This film stands as a successful commentary on athletics (with a focus on the female side, and its perception), a powerful love story, and a guide by which 90’s love stories should be measured.  It handles everything in a real manner, sometimes with a deft touch, and sometimes with a hammer, as life does.  Does it all work out in the end?  Does life always work out the way you want it, or the way it should be.  Figure this message out as the film goes along, and by the final frame, you’ll feel the emotions of the characters on the screen, because you’ve truly become a part of them.

Ultimately, Love and Basketball shows that a film can get two messages across, intertwining, balancing, and realistically developing so that each is driven, but not hammered home.  The passion between two lovers, and their passion for what drives each of them, has never been so effectively portrayed as it is here.  See this one as soon as possible, it is a definitely slam dunk for Spike Lee (producer) whose touches are all over this movie (a bit longer than need be, some storylines introduced but never developed) but any flaws are forgivable when the final message comes across.  Find your passion in life, focus on it, and never give up, and you will achieve all you desire. This movie is an inspiration and a snapshot of a romance done right. ($$$1/2 out of $$$$)

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