Black Coffee: Film Review
Mark Harris' comedy depicts the burgeoning romance between an unemployed painter and a successful lawyer.
There's an uplifting message of self-empowerment at the core of Black Coffee that marks a refreshing contrast to the often hyperbolic and religious-themed African-American oriented features arriving with increasing regularity on theater screens. Unfortunately, this low-budget effort written and directed by Mark Harris squanders its positive elements with characters and situations that defy credibility.
When first seen, Robert (Darrin Dewitt Henson) seems to have it all: a good job at a painting company; a gorgeous, albeit highly demanding girlfriend, Mita (Erica Hubbard); and a spacious, well-appointed home. But Robert’s life soon unravels when he’s unceremoniously fired by his boss, who also informs him that he’s been having an affair with Mita.
Despite the fact that the company was started by his own father, Robert takes the news in stride, receiving moral support from his cousin Julian (Christian Keyes) who owns a gourmet coffee business in which he inexplicably hawks his caffeinated wares from an outdoor stand as if he was selling lemonade.
Julian asks Robert to make a delivery to one of his clients (what, there’s no Starbucks in town?) who turns out to be the beautiful Morgan (Gabrielle Dennis), a lawyer in the process of starting her own firm after splitting up with her domineering ex-husband Hill (Lamman Rucker). She hires him to paint her new office, and their professional relationship soon turns romantic despite her wariness over his employment prospects.
When their relationship turns serious, she encourages Robert to start his own company, and he’s soon diligently poring over business tomes. Their relationship becomes threatened by the looming presence of her ex, but the problem is quickly resolved when he gets set up with Mita, who quickly transforms from a money-grubbing harpy into a docile lovebird.
Such bizarre characters reversals are a recurring element of the tone-deaf screenplay which veers uneasily between romantic comedy and melodrama. Much of what transpires is wholly unconvincing, although the proceedings are made palatable by the highly appealing performances by the two leads, who display a genuine onscreen chemistry. Despite its amateurish aspects, the film has its heart in the right place. It may not be good to the last drop, but Black Coffee offers some pleasurable jolts along the way.
Opens Jan. 10 (One Village Entertainment/RLJ Entertainment)
Production: 1555 Filmworks, Tri Destined Studios
Cast: Darrin Dewitt Henson, Christian Keyes, Lamman Rucker, Gabrielle Dennis, Erica Hubbard, Richard Gallion
Director/screenwriter: Mark Harris
Producers: N.D. Brown, Mark Harris
Executive producers: Eric Small, Maisha R. Carter, Keisha Kidan, Shebeta Carter, Danisha Hemphill-Rolle, Prinses Hemphill, Christopher Nolen, Tymbet Sy, Brett Dismuke, Trey Haley
Director of photography: Adam Lee
Editor: Dante Wyatt
Production designer: Nigel Mogg
Costume designer: Yesenia Correa
Composer: John Bell
Rated PG, 85 min.