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Underneath the flawless physique and upscale way of life, fortyish single mom Stella (Bassett) is sad; too much work and no love life is to blame.
Angela Bassett, Whoopi Goldberg, Taye Diggs, Regina King, Suzzanne Douglass, Richard Lawson, Michael J. Could Jay ‘s Rumored Mistress, Designer Rachel Roy, Be the ‘Becky With Good Hair’ Beyonce Talks About In ‘Lemonade’? I'm generally a sucker for romance, and I came close to liking "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," the latest adaptation from one of Terry McMillan's bonding women books ("Waiting to Exhale"), this one about a 40-year-old high-stakes broker (Angela Bassett) who finds herself revitalized in the arms of a Jamaican hunk half her age.
But every time I was just starting to enjoy myself, along came another compartmentalized, episodic and obvious plot development.
Stella (Bassett) is a stressed-out broker living a very comfortable life, but she's lonely and in dire need of a vacation (and a man, according to her friends), so she takes off for a week in Jamaica, where she's charmed out of her wrap-around skirt by a 20-year-old native who falls in love with her at first sight. The flirting between Bassett and Diggs is deliciously juicy and the soon-to-follow love scenes are pretty hot, even if they are generic music video sequences complete with a breeze blowing through gauzy drapes.
But once they have The Talk about The Age Issue, the rest of the script is nothing more than a row of dominos that fall on cue. Romance ensues, illustrated by lots of postcard cinematography and an adult contemporary soundtrack.


He moves in with Stella -- who takes major heat from friends, who exist entirely for conflict and comic relief -- and has the Video Game Bonding Scene with her son.
She talks about how she always wanted to be a furniture designer and, despite the fact that they're both unemployed, Winston buys her an expensive lathe, demonstrating that while he's a cute, beguiling stud, he also has a tender heart. I'm telling you, hand nine out of ten people walking down the street a two-sentence description of the concept for this movie, then give them a week at a word processor and you'd get this exact same script from all of them. Directed by Kevin Sullivan, it is beautifully photographed and awfully romantic when it tries. But in addition to this movie being wholly predicable and 30 minutes longer than necessary, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is often stale, especially when revisiting the same character issues for the third or fourth time. With a dollop more originality and slightly less patronizing Kleenex moments, this picture might have left its mark on the chick flick genre, but as it stands, it's an also-ran. Coaxed by her best friend Delilah (Goldberg), Stella takes a trip to Jamaica where she falls in love with 20-year-old islander Winston (Diggs in his film debut). There is not a single scene, action or line of dialogue in this movie that isn't anticipated at least one scene in advance. But when she is laid off from her job, she finds herself thinking of Winston and on a whim flies back to Jamaica.


She meets his folks and gets a serious talking-to from his mother, who is only one year her senior, etc., etc. Bassett plays Stella's conflict very well, giving in to her desires sometimes and also having moments of enormous doubt. The narrative can be very clever, as in the scene where the camera is slowly rolling over Winston's body while we listen to Stella's randy thoughts in voice over. A flipside to the May-December romance that is purely more gloss (picturesque shots of the Carribean landscape) than grit.
Film freshman Taye Diggs, playing the very appealing young stud Winston Shakespeare, was charming, sincere and dang handsome. Whoopi then promptly dies so Winston can unexpectedly show up at the funeral for his big I'm Here For You moment.
Bassett glows in a tailor-made role and muscular hunk Diggs is a find, but perfection in casting can't rescue this hollow romance that woefully missteps after a promising beginning.



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