The story of an ordinary Joe who is "cursed" with the desire to only date unavailable women
could perhaps form the basis for an amusing film. Unfortunately, Kwin Bader's LOVING JEZEBEL
isn't that movie, although it starts off somewhat promisingly. Theodorous (Hill Harper) is on the
phone with his latest conquest, Samantha (Laurel Holloman), who issues the warning that her
hot-tempered husband Gabe (David Moscow) is on his way over to kill Theodorous. Bader then
flashes back to Theodorous' childhood and pinpoints the exact time when he was ruined by women.
As a kindergarten student, he fell for a classmate but she quickly broke his heart by moving
on to a slick Casanova type. Up to this point, Bader exhibits flashes of humor and a modest potential
but when he flashes to a high school age Theo (now played by Harper) and details the character's
first brush with a "Jezebel," that is, another man's woman, the film begins to unravel. Offering a
comforting shoulder to his best friend's ex-girlfriend, Theo falls head over heels. This being a fickle
time in life, the girl reconciles with Theo's best friend and he is left without a girlfriend and a best pal.
This pattern continues throughout his life. In college, he falls for the unattainable for child actress
Frances (Nicole Ari Parker). After they begin dating, Theo is threatened by her gun-toting former
boyfriend, so he moves on to Salli (Elisa Donovan), a troubled young woman with a penchant for
stuffed animals who happens to have dated yet another buddy of Theo's.
One might expect Theo to learn something but he continues to do the same thing. When his
roommate's West Indian lover (Sandrine Holt) makes a pass at him, Theo doesn't refuse. Finally,
he swears off women all together and then, of course, meets the unhappily married Samantha
and resumes his old ways.
Bader's episodic script doesn't allow for any of the characters to emerge as fully-round,
three-dimensional people. Many of the woman are merely types and Bader seems unwilling or
unable to deal with issues of race. Theo is the product of a biracial marriage, with a relatively
placid doormat of a white father (John Doman) and an overprotective and overbearing black
mother (a miscast Phylicia Rashad), who comes off as pure caricature, but nothing is ever made
of it. Nor is any mention made when Theodorous woos white women or only light-skinned blacks.
Perhaps writer-director Bader was sending a subliminal message, but exactly what he's trying
to say is unclear.
Bader also betrays his leading man. Hill Harper, who has proven an effective lead and
supporting player (see GET ON THE BUS, for example), is made to look completely unattractive
Under unflattering dreadlocks (the same hairstyle he employed to equally bad effect in
THE NEPHEW) and oversized glasses. He is written as such a nerdy, uninviting person it is
hard to believe that anyone – female or male – would give him a first glance, never mind a
second look. Harper tries hard (and it shows) to inject charm into an otherwise bland figure.
The various women who fall prey to his charms also try gamely to create individual
personalities. Donovan can't do much with her one-dimensional character and Holt (who
excelled in the "John Woo's Once a Thief" TV-movies) appears equally at sea. Parker tries
to turn her harridan of an actress into a real person but the script does her in as well. Only
Holloman as a woman in an unfulfilling marriage almost manages to create a full-bodied person.
Undoubtedly, LOVING JEZEBEL is one of those efforts best relegated to a footnote in the careers
of all involved.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.