Poetic Follow-Up to ‘Boyz’
I waited impatiently for two years to see “Poetic Justice.” From the moment the final credits began to roll on “Boyz N the Hood,” I couldn’t wait for John Singleton’s sophomore offering.
But after reading Kenneth Turan’s review calling the film “a disappointment,” I couldn’t rest until I sat down and wrote my own review, the admittedly impassioned opinions of a Sis N the Hood.
When I went to see “Poetic Justice,” I had an open mind and approached the film as if it were Singleton’s first.
Unlike Turan, my passions were ignited by the movie itself, and not by some vague expectations engendered by the tremendous success of Singleton’s first film.
First, let me state that I agreed with almost nothing Turan wrote. His first mistake in his myopic critique was comparing “Poetic Justice” to “Boyz.” “How do you follow a phenomenon?” he asks. Well, I’ll tell you how, with a bigger phenomenon. And in “Poetic Justice,” Singleton has done that.
I saw the film with my three children, two of my nephews and my man and we all loved it. “Poetic Justice” is not only an excellent film, but The Times reported on July 27 that its opening weekend totaled $11.7 million in ticket sales.
Turan also states that the profanity and slang in the movie was enough “to confuse anyone not raised in the ‘hood.” Mr. Critic, pleeeeaaaase! The language was perfectly appropriate. In my humble opinion there is not a single term used in the film that every sane American could not readily understand, whether by definition or context. I could have reached for the dictionary a couple of times while reading Turan’s review, but I was saved from this inconvenience by context. Context, Mr. Turan! English 101, remember?
Turan mentions that certain elements of “Poetic Justice” were “contrived” and “awkward.” Not so! Certainly, the film would have profited by allowing parts of the family reunion and the African marketplace to “hit the editing room floor,” but to brand the entire film as “truncated” is an abundant overstatement.
Unlike Turan, I saw plenty of passion in “Justice.” The characters were great, and my family and I could identify with each and every one of them. Singleton indeed takes us back to the ‘hood, but this time he allows us to view it from a sister’s point of view.
Singleton’s choice of Janet Jackson for his protagonist was nothing short of inspired. Her portrayal of Justice, a young hairdresser from South-Central L.A. who uses poetry to help her deal with the tribulations of everyday life, was on the level of Diana Ross’ feature debut in “Lady Sings the Blues.”
Justice’s eventual boyfriend, Lucky (Tupac Shakur in a masterful performance), is admirable if for no other reason than he’s a law-abiding young African-American male with a steady job.
Justice’s close friend, Iesha (played magnificently by Regina King), was simply the best choice that Singleton made. Talk about passion! Iesha is passion personified. We rooted throughout for her emotional evolution. Almost everyone on the planet knows someone like Iesha. She’s loud, spices her language soup with huge helpings of profanity and is, quite simply, boy crazy. Plus, my young son adds, “She’s kinda cute.”
Iesha’s boyfriend, Chicago (a star-making role for stand-up comic Joe Torry), is a close friend of Lucky. And the two couples’ idiosyncratic trek upstate to Oakland bubbles with drama and cultural excitement. (I still have daydreams of Iesha and Chicago at the end coming together.)
My kids would divorce me should I not mention the character played by rapper Tone Loc. It’s a small part, but one I shall never forget. Tone Loc is great and should stick to acting.
I am a person who hardly ever reads reviews. Not because I think they’re inordinately inaccurate, but because I find them boring. I read The Times’ review of “Poetic Justice” because of the singularly intense interest that Singleton’s film had engendered in the African-American community.
Turan should be forced to take the time to write Singleton a passionate letter, thanking him for increasing his reading audience by one, at least for a day. Now that certainly would be poetic justice.