Everything But a Man – A Review
15 Feb 2017
I was pleasantly surprised at how marvelous this film was. Monica Calhoun fit the role of the successful but single Vanessa perfectly. I loved that this character was in her forties instead of the film being about a clueless twenty-something-year-old desperately looking for love. Great casting decision. Just as suitable for his role was Jimmy Jean-Louis as Max, the mysterious mouthwatering foreign lover.
This film could not be more timely. With the common complaints of educated and successful black women about the eligible man shortage, there is a quite a bit that the target audience can relate to from their own experiences or the experiences of successful sisters in our midst.
Vanessa’s independence, hard work and success don’t bring her the comforts of being in a loving relationship. This is one thing we are aware that she is missing, but she is not willing to surrender her “strength” or independence. We watch Vanessa and Max become acquainted on many levels and though we wish her well, we cringe at the way she speaks about and speaks to Max. He does not use the right forks at a 5 star restaurant and he asks the price of an item on a menu because it the price is not listed, and Vanessa says that this is the most embarrassing night of her life. In a manner that Americans are infamously guilty of, Vanessa expects Max to conform to her ways without taking the effort to become a part of his world. She is belittling and condescending in so many scenes that she makes it hard for us to root for her.
However, writer/director Nnegest Likké finds ways to entertain us throughout the film that give us the best of romance and comedy simultaneously. At times, this film was like a tutorial to women on what NOT to do. For instance, don’t become romantically involved with a man without asking him critical questions first. This oversight caused several bomb drops for Vanessa towards the end.
One of the things I liked best about the film was the amalgamation of cultures. There are not enough American films that include the cultures of the African Diaspora. In Everything But a Man, we are introduced to Nigerian musicians, Haitian cuisine, Afro-Caribbean contemporary dances and a the landscape of another country. During the Q & A session after the film, writer/director Likké divulged that she is half American and half Ethiopian and it is my guess that her own upbringing in two diverse cultures influenced her decision to have Max be from another country. We can see this influence in her earlier film, Phat Girlz, where her African American female protagonist falls for a West African love interest. This is also prevalent in her more recent film, Ben & Ara, where an African Islamic woman has an affair with an agnostic Caucasian man.
What makes this film a must see is it’s unpredictability. Romantic comedies focused on female over-achievers can often be painfully formulaic. However, Everything But the Man disrupts the formula. The love scenes were delicious and I was thankful for every frame where Jimmy Jean-Louis was shirtless. Everything But a Man is the perfect girls night out film and there is sure to be some titillating conversation to follow. Kudos to Nnegest Likké.