1½ stars (out of four)
"Is there that much hip-hop in the Hamptons?" a lily-white woman asks at the beginning of "G," a Lizzie Grubman-era variation on "The Great Gatsby." The answer, of course, is P. Diddy. Or Diddy. Or, as those in the inner-circle call him, Ddy.
Jay-Z loves the Hamptons, a New York magazine story told us in 1999. So do Russell Simmons and Kimora. And Damon Dash. Alas, this ritzy end of Long Island, where once only the whitest of the white summered in exclusivity, is now home to Diddy's White Party, where guests need only dress white, not be white.
This transformationthe hip-hopification of the Hamptons, if you pleasecaught the attention of Andrew Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren and producer of/driving force behind "G." Lauren grew up summering in the Hamptonslucky for dad, nee Ralph Lifshitz, Jews got through the pearly gates a while backand was fascinated to see his playground diversified. (The American Dream: different colors of rich people!)
So he teamed up with playwright Charles E. Drew and director Christopher Scott Cherot to retell F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic Long Island tale, casting black man Richard T. Jones ("Judging Amy") as Gatsby- esque (emphasis on the -esque) Summer G, a hip-hop mogul whose bling means nothing without his one true love, Sky.
Sweethearts and struggling artists in college, Sky and Summer split up when Sky (Chenoa Maxwell) ran off to marry Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood), a successful businessman who promised her the world and actually delivered.
Now, 10 years later, a sullen Summer, a searching Sky and a cheating Chip all find themselves luxuriating in the Hamptons. When Sky's cousin Tracy (Andre Royo), an earnest music writer for True Flow magazine, drives up from the city to interview Summer, oh boythe triangle heats up.
Other important stuff: Chip's dad owns True Flow, so when Tracy learns of Chip's philandering ways, he's in what they call a sticky situation. Also, Tracy obviously went to the Billy Bush School of Journalism, asking Summer & associates repeatedly: Does hip-hop have heart? And every rap mogul has a short, very white sidekick.
Got it? Good.
Cherot shot "G" on a tight schedule, but instead of this age-old indie predicament generating a certain scrappy passion, the film just looks cheap. The editing, the music, the performances are all pretty low quality, especially given the attempted grandeur (and that source material). "G" might have worked as a budget B-flick, but the filmmakers are going for something operatic here with their mix of love and loss, rap and race.
They miss. By a lot. (Although Chip's Ralph Lauren Purple Label wardrobe is quite dapper.)
Summer, Sky and Chip are exactly like their names: empty, wooden and detached, their love affairs romantic in theory only. But the biggest miscalculation is Lauren's, who assumes that you and I are as amazed to see the Hamptons' transformation as he is, and, in turn, that the Hamptons represents something greater than itself, and, in turn some more, that we all view African-Americans as "others."
But hip-hop culture is as American as apple pie, WASPs and materialism, and the draw of the Hamptons is pretty straightforward, no matter your color.
As rap bigwig Damon Dash explained in the 1999 New York magazine piece, "Do I want to see someone get shot or do I want to get on a private helicopter and fly to the Hamptons? It's not a tough question."
Directed by Christopher Scott Cherot; screenplay by Cherot and Charles E. Drew Jr.; photographed by Horacio Marquinez; edited by Rob Reitano; production designed by Anne Stuhler; music by Bill Conti; produced by Andrew Lauren and Judd Landon. An Andrew Lauren Productions release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:37. MPAA rating: R (language, some sexuality and brief violence).
Summer G - Richard T. Jones
Chip Hightower - Blair Underwood
Sky Hightower - Chenoa Maxwell
Tracy "Tre" Newman - Andre RoyoCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times