Get Rich or Lie Trying
G Takes A Peek At Life Among The Rich And Shameless
For years, black audiences have shared disappointment over the depiction of African-Americans on-screen. Aside from the obvious jive-talking blaxsplotation-era nonsense, there’s still far too many people rapping, dancing, singing, and pimping—with a few really, really good exceptions. And after a while the fine line between singing, dancing, and pimping and shuckin’ and jivin’ just disappears. Soul Plane—what’s that shit all about?
Enter G, the CineVegas Film Festival and Milan International Film Festival award winner based on a successful off-Broadway play, Sky, and produced by Andrew Lauren (spawn of Ralph, for whatever that’s worth). It follows a week in the lives of a few people whose lives are intriguingly and secretly intertwined in Long Island’s super-snooty South Hampton. It all starts with hip-hop magazine journalist Tre (The Wire’s Andre Royo), on assignment to interview hip-hop mega-entrepreneur Summer G (The Wood’s Richard T. Jones), a tormented Sean “Diddy” Combs type who is the focus of Tre’s story about “hip-hop invading the Hamptons.” While on assignment Tre figures, hey, no better time to visit his smoking-hot cousin Sky (Hav Plenty’s Chenoa Maxwell) and her wealthy douche-bag husband, Chip (Blair Underwood), who happen to live in Summer G’s neighborhood.
Unbeknownst to Tre, however, Summer G and Sky were lovers in college, and she actually dumped him in college to holla at Chip. What follows is a sneaky, sordid few days that finds Tre caught in the middle of a bunch of lies tangled up in Chip’s philandering and Summer’s desire for a hush-hush meeting with Sky.
All in all, it’s a story as old as anything: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl gets with another dude, boy wants girl back, girl wants boy back, too, boy tries to rescue girl from the clutches of a boring meathead, and blah, blah, blah. What separates the latest from director Christopher Scott Cherot (Hav Plenty, the hilarious short Andre Royo’s Big Scene) from everything else is subtle yet effective. A restrained socioeconomic and racial awareness permeates G. Summer is seen as a threat to the community elite—“I heard he used to be a gangster,” is blurted out at a homeowners association meeting when it’s learned that G amassed his fortune in the hip-hop business, a stigma that kept even Jay-Z from buying a Manhattan condo a few years back. And the soundtrack uses a sultry saxophone moan to add a sexy and smoky, albeit melodramatic, undertone.
These light touches dust a patina of finery around the one-dimensional, if capably realized, characters. Jones breathes believability into G, the pseudo-depressed dude who has everything—house, car, success—except love. Royo pulls off the journalist in over his head, slightly nervous through the ordeal without realizing he’s the principal catalyst. And Underwood’s Chip is a sly and charming piece of garbage that women will love to hate and swoon over at the same time, nicely complementing the flick’s overall ambiance of sophisticated elegance.
Too bad the supporting characters are so bleh. The story line for Craig (BET’s Laz Alonso), one of Summer G’s artists, feels out of place for so long during the flick that by the time you realize why he was even introduced in the first place the ramifications feel clumsily forced. And why is Shelly (The Wire’s Sonja Sohn) flirting with B. Mo Smoov (Nicoye Banks)— no bullshit, that’s his name—the personification of every lame hip-hop cliché ever perpetrated?
The movie’s producers take great pride in mentioning that G is somehow “Gatsby-esque.” Granted, there are elements of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic floating through G, inasmuch as any story about the nouveau riche is indebted to The Great Gatsby. But to call such attention to that element may set some people up for a disappointment; the movie could fare well to stand on its own merits. G is a cool, stylish, and entertaining look at attractive, upwardly mobile black people livin’ la vida scandalous, dramatic and sexy amid the refined elegance that is the Hamptons.