Definition: a quickie wedding that doesn’t involve daddy sportin’ a shotgun as a means of influence.
During the days of slavery, Blacks were unable to marry lawfully, so the tradition of jumping over a broom began as a way to show a couple’s union as man and wife. In the film Jumping the Broom this custom is the backdrop to the impending merging of two very different families as they gather one weekend for a wedding.
Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso, Avatar) and Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton, Precious) meet and fall in love in record time. When Sabrina is offered a position in China, Jason doesn’t want her to leave without becoming his wife. So a hastily planned, yet lavish wedding is planned by Sabrina and her tightly wound mother Claudine, played by Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to do With It). Sabrina’s wealthy family and Jason’s working class relatives meet for the very first time just days before the wedding. By the time the happy day arrives, tensions between the two families erupt and an old secret that threatens to rip the loving couple apart is revealed.
When you boil it all down, Jumping the Broom is more a film about family than it is a wedding picture. Even though the ceremony is the lynchpin that brings the two families together, it is but a backdrop to the study of familial relationships and the difficulties we encounter with people we didn’t choose to live life with but must nonetheless. Part comedy, part drama and part love story, Broom takes an idea we’ve seen many times before — wealthy stuck up family meets regular old Joe family and the hi-jinks ensue — and adds a fresh twist on the old theme. What makes it fresh is the use of an all Black cast that isn’t made up of stereotypical caricatures that we have a tendency to see in these kinds of movies. You know, the jive talkin’, pimp walkin’ sassy attitudes that we get from most of the sitcoms on The CW. Broom is much smarter than that, and the proof of that is found in one character in particular, Jason’s Uncle Willie Earl played by Mike Epps (The Hangover). Willie Earl is the brother of Jason’s deceased father and he could’ve easily been made into a buffoon, instead the writers gave him a depth of character that was unexpected and far more interesting than I had anticipated. Even though Epps’ role is a minor one, he is pivotal as the conscience of Pam Taylor (Loretta Devine, Madea’s Big Happy Family), Jason’s overbearing mother who treats her son as if he were still her ‘baby’ boy. Epps’ performance, although hilarious, was by far more understated than his roles usually are. Willie Earl had an honest quality that belied the playboy persona he wore in public, and he also possessed a tenderness that allowed him to show his sister-in-law more understanding and compassion than she deserved.
The two families are stripped of their superficial differences to show that they really are more the same than they are dissimilar. This is most evident with Claudine and Pam, while Claudine comes from a privileged background, her mama bear devotion to her child is similar to that of Pam’s. Both women love their children but show that love in destructive ways: Claudine through controlling behavior, while Pam uses emotional manipulation to get the results that she desires. Director Salim Akil (The Game), crafted this surprising gem by utilizing the talents of these actors in an ensemble piece which allowed each character a moment in the spotlight. It made you forget that this was a “Black” cast and you just started to see them as people working through the baggage we all cling to no matter how destructive it may become.
Jumping the Broom is a beautifully shot movie in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and even on DVD the scenes at Martha’s Vineyard are gorgeous, with crisp and clear colors that emphasize the beauty of that part of the country. The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1, which highlights music from various genres. Extras include a behind the scenes view of what went into the making of the movie, as well as a historical overview of the tradition of jumping the broom.
Fun, smart, and memorable are the words that come to mind when I think of Jumping the Broom. I have a tendency to be harder on Black themed movies because, well because I am Black and I get frustrated when such films narrowly focus on the physical differences and never get at the heart of who people really are. Jumping the Broom does just that by applying struggles to these characters who we all can relate to. Because like the late, great Michael Jackson once said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or White.”
Jumping the Broom (DVD)
2011, Sony, 112 minutes, PG-13 (2011)
VIDEO: 1.78:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH), English, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai
EXTRAS: Featurettes ACCOMPLICES: IMDB