Christopher Scott Cherot has no lack of nerve, for he not only wrote, directed and edited his debut feature, the engaging "Hav Plenty," but also stars in it--as a young man women just love to throw themselves at. (Never mind that Cherot's Lee Plenty is a writer so broke he's living in his car.)
He's trying--but not too hard, it would seem--to get his life together when he gets a call from a former classmate (Chenoa Maxwell) to come down to Washington, D.C., from New York for a New Year's Eve celebration.
Maxwell's alternately appealing and imperious Havilland ("Hav") Savage is an ultimate Black American Princess. She has a great job, her parents are rich (though divorced), and her mother has a luxurious suburban D.C. home, where much of the film will unfold. In conversation, she drops names like Eddie (as in Murphy) and Quentin (as in you-know-who). Hav's also engaged to a rock star described as "the next Marvin Gaye"--but she's just discovered he has, not surprisingly, a rather casual view of fidelity. They won't be seeing the New Year in together.
The group of people Hav has invited over to her mother's home--her mother is off somewhere with her fiance--includes her half-sister Leigh (Robinne Lee) and Leigh's husband, Felix (Reginald James), and Hav's lacquered pal Caroline (Tammi Katherine Jones), who one moment wouldn't give a homeless man the time of day and the next is coming on to Lee Plenty like gangbusters. But Lee isn't receptive to Caroline or anyone else, for that matter.
The point is that the passive Lee is not interested in casual sex, even with Hav, whom he loves as much as she does him--but it takes a whole movie for them to figure this out. Of course, that the good-looking Lee, a man whose empathy knows no limits, is determinedly impossible to get makes him all the more attractive to the women who hit on him.
Cherot has an ear for dialogue and a way with actors. Maxwell, as talented as she is lovely, expertly rings in all the self-discovery she experiences in the course of an extended weekend. (Robinne Lee is also a special delight as the reflective Leigh.)
The pleasure in watching "Hav Plenty" comes from seeing Cherot discover the possibilities of the medium as he goes along. As it unfolds, repartee gives way to an increasing sense of the visual, and by the time the film is over, Cherot has discovered how potent Maxwell can be in repose, expressing herself without resorting to words.
* MPAA rating: R, for strong language. Times guidelines: Be prepared for some really crude language.
Christopher Scott Cherot: Lee Plenty
Chenoa Maxwell: Havilland Savage
Tammi Katherine Jones: Caroline Gooden
Robinne Lee: Leigh Darling
Reginald James: Felix Darling
A Miramax Films presentation in association with Wanderlust Pictures Inc., and e2 Filmworks. Writer-director-editor Christopher Scott Cherot. Producers Cherot, Robyn M. Greene. Executive producer S.J. Cherot. Cinematographer Kerwin Devonish. Music supervisors Tracey E. Edmonds, Michael McQuarn. Music Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
* At selected theaters throughout Los Angeles County.