Before I walked into Just Wright my expectations could only be described as low. Hell, they were leagues under the sea low. There would be no way that this film could win me over, the only Queen Latifah film I have ever liked was Bringing Down The House and it pains me to admit that. Nothing could be more shocking to my pre- Just Wright self than to read, I liked this movie. Now don’t get me wrong it’s not the best film ever, in fact it’s not even close, but for a sports driven romcom it’s not that bad.
Just Wright stars Queen Latifah (Chicago) as Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who gets the dream job of working with NBA All-Star Scott McKnight (Common). Think Whoopi Goldberg in Eddie and you can get the jest of Leslie Wright. Though what sets this film apart from that is the romance part. I usually turn a blind eye to the romantic sports dramas, as most of them are just a ploy to convince men that this would be a good flick to see on a date night. Leslie meets McKnight at a gas station after a game landing her and her best friend Morgan (Paula Patton) invites to Scott’s birthday party. After a few minutes of innocent flirting Leslie and Scott sense that they may have a spark, a spark that is quickly fizzled out when Scott lays his eyes on Morgan. Insert tag line here, “Is Leslie destined to play the role of “best friend” forever or will Scott finally see that what he always wanted is right in front of him?” I know your saying to yourself, “Come on, that sounds horrible” and 99 out of a 100 times you would be right but the acting of Common (Smokin’ Aces) makes Just Wright a film that defies the odds.
I have seen Common play a all kinds of supporting rolls and have always thought that he could act. Just Wright gives him the chance to play the leading roll and he completely excels. Not once did I feel that Common was under or over playing that role. He had great delivery and gave Scott a child-like honesty that made the character work. I look forward to seeing Common in more serious rolls, that will test his true acting ability, but for now this is a good start.
Queen Latifah gives a less impressive portrayal of Leslie and makes Common’s performance stand out even more, as all the romantic chemistry is coming from his side of the table. Latifah failed to create a strong character that filled me with anything more than pity. To her credit it is hard to imagine anyone else performing better, but with just a little more effort she could have created a more enjoyable character.
Though the film did win me over it wasn’t with out it’s problems, director Sanaa Hamri (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) never brought anything special to the table and ended up giving the film a made for TV feel. The camera moves as you would think it would with one or two shots when in dramatic moments and fast paced zooms when following the games. It’s small decisions like that that kills the tension that is built up through the film. Along with poor decisions behind the camera, Just Wright could have benefited with a little more work in the editing room. About half way in the story grows stale and could have been quickly moved ahead with the removal of a few scenes. At just 111mins I should never get that “get on with it” feeling, but to the detriment of the film I did.
Just Wright is less than perfect but it was enjoyable. Though I can’t say it’s for everyone, the intended audience will have a good time. I wouldn’t suggest seeking this out in the theater unless you are a fan of the genre, but if you are indecisive at the movie store Just Wright would be a nice way to spend your night.
I give Just Wright 2.5 “who knew Common could talk” out of 5.