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QUIT PLAYIN: Love Jones is Twenty Five?

Love Jones
Theodore Witcher’s “Love Jones” grossed $12 million at the domestic box office when it was released in 1997.

The Brighter Side of Darkness may have just had one hit song, but “Love Jones” was a monumental one in 1973. That chart-topper came one year after Billy Paul’s classic love song about secret paramours, “Me and Mrs. Jones.”

For the sake of transparency, that was my theme song for a girl I was in love with at Boude Storey Junior High. Charmaine Jones was a cute li’l ol’ “Yella Hamma!” But it was them slightly bowed legs that did it for me. Did we medically reduce the number of bow-legged people? They used to be the ish! Anyway.

Charmaine Jones was my main squeeze, but I never squeezed her hand. In much the same was as the Temptations “Just my Imagination,” I was in love with the idea of being in love with Charmaine Jones. I was humming Me and Mrs. Jones, and she had no clue. In my imagination, we met every day at the same café!

So, it made me a bit giddy when I realized that “Love Jones,” the most beautiful Black love story in our repertoire, is 25 years old this year. Yep, baby, you is getting old. It has been a quarter century since you and your “Love Jones” held hands at the Red Bird Cinema snack bar.

Nia Long, my second Charmaine, and Larenz Tate join an up-and-coming cast of stars who made love look intellectual and engaging. Even hard-to-please movie critic Roger Ebert was impressed.

What’s happening, baby?
Did you miss me over the weekend?
If you did, then I’m sorry, but now that I’m here.
I don’t wanna bore you with an irrelevant conversation.
I gotta Love Jones for you!

– The Brighter Side of Darkness, 1973

“”Love Jones” is a love story set in the world of Chicago’s middle-class black artists and professionals–which is to say, it shows a world more unfamiliar to moviegoers than the moon’s far side. It is also frankly romantic and erotic and smart. This is the first movie in a while where the guy quotes Mozart, and the girl tells him he’s really thinking of Shaw.

The movie stars Nia Long as Nina, a professional photographer, and Larenz Tate as Darius, a novelist. After an opening montage of great black and white Chicago scenes (Nina’s photographs, we learn), they Meet Cute at the Sanctuary, a club inspired by the various venues around town for poetry slams, cool jazz, and upscale dating.

His moves are smooth: He meets her, walks to the mike, and retitles his poem “A Blues for Nina,” reading it to her across the smoky room. She likes that. “Maybe next week you’ll write something for me,” he says. They engage in flirt-talk. “There are other things than sex,” she tells him. Like what? he wants to know. She takes a pen and writes “love” on his wrist.”

Nia is slightly bow-legged and a writer too! (She wrote on his wrist.) You know I love her! I met her mom Talita at a banquet and told her about my crush ten years ago, but Nia ain’t called me once!

Love Jones is the penultimate Black love movie. The film inhales and exhales youth, emotional truths, and self-discovery in the midst of a significant other. True romantics can watch this movie ad infinitum.

There were so many memorable lines.

“All we have, Marvin, is all these years. And it’s just not enough… anymore.”

“God is a woman … if you ever kissed a woman, you know that women have a certain power. A certain sexual thing that renders men totally incapable of functioning.”

“People with profound insights on life know not to get married. And those that do ought to know that marriage is what you make it.”

And then there was a line that made all the sistas swoon and all the brothers take note.

‘Who am I? Well, they call me Brother to the night. And right now I’m the blues in your left thigh… trying to become the funk in your right. Is that all
right?’ – Darius Lovehall

Love Jones was not an original title. However, this cinematic history is authentic, organic, and oozing with love and culture. If your teens haven’t seen it, it’s time for Black Movie Night at yo’ crib!

Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.

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Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and award-winning columnist.

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