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Movie Review: Love and Basketball

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In honor of its place as a trending topic on Twitter last week, I review one of my favorite movies, Love and Basketball.

Directed and written by Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees), Love and Basketball won two Independent Spirit Awards in 2001, including a Best First Screenplay award for Bythewood. Set in Los Angeles during the ‘80s, the film follows the relationship between two people deeply passionate about basketball.

Monica (Sanaa Lathan) has always been a tomboy who’d rather shoot hoops than wear an apron or play dress up. She moves into the house next door to Quincy (Omar Epps) when the kids are eleven. Over the years, the neighbors exhibit a love for basketball that no one else shares. Quincy wants to be a professional ball player like his father, and Monica wants to be the first woman in the NBA. Their passion for the game unites them, and they understand each other’s drive to succeed in the sport.

The film follows their relationship from mere neighbors to lovers, from children to adults. But when Quincy is doing well, Monica struggles, and vice-versa. It seems as if the couple can’t get their lives and relationship together at the same time. The movie questions whether the couple will have a lasting future with each other and the sport they love.

This movie is nothing like the typical chick-flick or sports movie. Rarely do you see a couple where both people are so strong-willed and motivated. Rarely do you find a movie that functions as both a romance and a sports film. While the For Love of the Game comes close, Kevin Costner’s character is the only athlete in the relationship. This movie isn’t focused on a specific game, a moment in history, or a team overcoming odds; it’s about two people’s life’s and how basketball is at the center of it.

The film’s dialogue is also enjoyable, especially lines where the element of “black” culture is evident. For example, when Monica and Quincy are kids he plainly asks her “You wanna be my girl?” Some other examples of this can be seen in the film’s soundtrack. For the opening scene in which Monica and Quincy meet for the first time, Jackson Five’s song “ABC” plays in the background. It’s arguably one of the best scenes in the film. Some old school hip-hop and Al Green songs scattered throughout the film make particular scenes meaningful.

Some mistake this movie as a “black film,” targeted only toward an African-American audience. But, the passion the couple feels for the game and for each other can be appreciated by anyone. The chemistry between Monica and Quincy is real. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps dated for two years off-screen.

Love and Basketball is a beautifully executed film that explores a couples’ passion for basketball and for each other throughout the “quarters” of their life, spanning across a childhood rivalry to a friendship to love. Even those who frown upon chick flicks will cherish Love and Basketball for its engaging and unique storyline.

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