Two-thirds of the way into Something New Edmond McQueen (Earl Billings) nonchalantly tells his daughter something powerful: “It’s not as if we’re some pure race that can’t be diluted.” When he does, said daughter, Kenya (generation hip-hop’s everywoman Sanaa Lathan), is forced to re-examine many things she assumed about her life and herself. Kenya has it all—a new home, a great gig at a prestigious accounting firm—but is still single and creeping into her mid-30s with no real prospects. She meets Brian (Simon Baker), a laid-back landscape architect who is all she needs in a man—except that he’s white.
Director Sanaa Hamri separates Something New from the usual romantic-comedy fodder by focusing on the everyday travails of a successful thirtysomething black woman’s search for an adequate counterpart. It’s a serious topic rarely explored from a woman’s perspective, one that touches on the assumption that Kenya may be settling for Brian because she can’t find a “good” black man—a theory tested when she meets Mark (movie stud Blair Underwood), a dude who has everything else she wants, including the right skin color.
Hollywood rarely delves into interracial dating’s personal tug of war, the idea of, as Kenya’s younger brother Nelson (Scrubs’ Donald Faison) calls it, “sleeping with the enemy.” Something New cites a startling statistic early on—that more than 40 percent of black women over 30 have never been married. It sets up an air of desperation around many of Something New’s women—one leaps at the first black man with a job she meets at a party, another sees a married man. Lathan does an amazing job conveying the emotional range of her romantic predicament, from initial hesitation to the awkward first kiss and, ultimately, to the realization that maybe all a mate has to do is make her happy.
And there are plenty of laughs throughout. Kenya’s girlfriends Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Suzzette (Golden Brooks), and Nedra (Taraji P. Henson) wonder what the fuss is about, while Kenya personifies that fuss in her self-conscious awkwardness of being seen as an “interracial dater.” A Starbucks first date is hilarious, and practically every time she’s in pubic with Brian, Kenya squirms and overcompensates, referring to every black stranger walking by as “brotha” and “sista.” Save a few heart-to-heart moments, the “can’t we all just get along?” hook is never too overwhelming. Check it out and enjoy a flick that’s brave, smart, and funny with your black or white date—or Korean date, Indian date, or Samoan, African . . .