Since African-Americans became a part of every level of American life, the usual tensions between social and economic classes within this previously oppressed minority have also surfaced. Those who recognize this most intimately are the African-American pastors who have made this journey together with their congregations. T.D. Jakes is one such pastor and his film "Jumping the Broom" is a revealing portrayal of that journey.
The story was written by Elizabeth Hunter and directed by Salim Akil, whose skill as a television director is now being applied to the large screen. This is both a strength and a weakness as Akil creates a story that explores large issues, but he is still finding his footing in making this a feature film rather than a formulaic TV episode.
The central characters around whose wedding the film revolves are Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso) and Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton). Jason is the only child of a working-class single mother (Loretta Devine) in Brooklyn. When he accidentally meets Sabrina, he does not know that she is the only child of a very wealthy family from Martha's Vineyard, but their whirlwind romance effectively masks their differences. With dynamic elements but a predictable storyline, the action focuses on family dynamics.
Like the films by Tyler Perry that are also based in the African-American subculture, the characters are comfortable with both sex and prayer. Combining faith with a hyper sexual tension is entertaining but somewhat confusing. Prayer is natural in the characters lives, but the usual purity and kindness that Christian faith and practice encourages is lacking.
This confusing contradiction is also seen in the two mothers. Jason's mother Pam is shown reading her Bible and she claims to have prayed for God's guidance, yet she doesn't seem to try to curb, or even feel badly about, the cruelty she shows in her treatment of others. Sabrina's mother Claudine (Angela Bassett) has raised her daughter in the church, as referred to by the minister (T.D. Jakes) who is marrying them, yet her mother is prideful and prejudiced toward Jason's lower-class family.
As the title implies, part of the struggle lies in the rejection of cultural practices by the newly rich families who leave behind traditions from the past and those African-American families that continue the traditions begun in the slave years when marriage ceremonies were not allowed and so couples would literally "jump the broom" together to proclaim their life-long commitment.
The resolutions to the various tensions in the families are also predictable, and yet endearing. As secrets are revealed and love is confirmed, the socio-economic class tensions melt away as the families meld as human beings into this creation of a new and extended family.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. What practices do you see as unnecessary in your own culture surrounding marriage ceremonies? Why do you think they are still important to some people?
2. The secret that Sabrina discovers because of Jason's mother's cruelty ends up being a good thing. Do you believe such secrets should be told or kept confidential? Would you have told Sabrina the truth?
3. The fact that Mr. Watson (Brian Stokes Mitchel) lost the family fortune that had been brought into the marriage by his wife underlies the reality of wealth: it can easily be lost. Although the film resolves this differently, what do you think would have been different for the Watsons if they had been poor? Would their marriage have been better or worse?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: http://www.cinemainfocus.com