You guys know that I typically go hard on these movie reviews. The reasons are many. It's a recession and nobody should flush $40 down the drain if the movie isn't worth it. I also run into problems when I'm reviewing the work of people I personally know and like. Do you keep it real and potentially ruin a friendship, or do you say nice things and sorta kinda lie to your readers? If it sounds like I'm taking all this a bit too damn seriously (because let's face it, this ain't my Day Job) then you're prolly right.
Thankfully, this film presented no such dilemma. I can with clear conscience give Happily Ever After a very good review because it's a very good movie.
Shot documentary-style, sans narration, the movie is really much more of a celebration of black marriage than an in-depth analysis of why the institution as a whole is in such a lousy state in our communities right now.
Familiar faces like radio personality Joe Madison, filmmaker Janks Morton, author (and friend of AB.com) Denene Milner, and actor Tray Chaney (HBO's The Wire), along with average, everyday married couples from all walks of life tell their stories. For once, all the good things about marriage (financial benefits, living longer, balanced approaches to rearing children) are discussed, rather than wallowing in the muck of why "black women are too independent" and "all the good black men are in jail or on the DL". That's a tired, tired, tired shopworn narrative that seems to plague most examinations of Black marriage (Soledad, I'm lookin' at you). Instead, by presenting real couples (along with the occasional "expert) who talk transparently about the challenges, but also the triumphs of living with a "better half", the movie is inspiring on many levels.
Perhaps most interesting is how the movie challenged one of my personal stances. I've long maintained that The Obama Effect on black marriage is going to be negligible at best, and that black folks won't just be magically pairing up all of a sudden because there's somebody who looks like us in the White House. But as the movie suggests, The Huxtable Effect had a huge influence on changing the perception of what marriage means for millions of black people, and The Cosby Show was pure fiction. Even I'll admit, coming from a loving two parent household, even I observed some of what Claire and Cliff had and carry that sensibility into my own marriage. Who's to say that Barry and Michelle can't do the same for another generation? Not me. Not anymore at least.
Well paced and well structured at just over an hour, Happily will definitely leave you with a feeling that things are getting better for the overall state of black marriage, whether that's reflected in the crude numbers or not. Strangely, for a guy who runs a website called Black And Married With Kids, and is featured on the movie's poster, Tyler doesn't cave in to P. Diddy-Syndrome and appears nowhere in the movie. I can't say this is a good or bad thing, it's merely different. I'm sure he'll stop by to chime in on this probing question.
Final Verdict: As the erstwhile cultural expert Denene Milner asserts in this movie, black folks need to quit jibber jabbering about there not being enough "positive" depictions of us and start supporing each other when we do put out this sort of film. Naturally, I concur, and I applaud Lamar & Ronnie Tyler for putting their money where their
Happily Ever After [Official Movie Website]