Trying to fall in love with film again.

'Nappily Ever After' is as shallow as you think it is

Nappily Ever After (2018)Story

Violet Jones is perfect from the way her hair is styled to the way she interacts with her boyfriend. After her birthday doesn't go as she planned she breaks up with him and goes on a journey of self-discovery that starts with a dramatic hair makeover.

Movies like this usually have something that draws in an audience and in this, it's the scene where Violet shaves her head, it was shocking to see in the trailer and even though you see it coming in the movie, you feel the emotion in that scene.

This is a story you've seen a million times. Movies like this aren't made to reinvent the wheel but add a new perspective and this movie does that but only on the surface. Violet's perfection and relationship with her hair, has been passed on to her from her mother but we are never given a real reason for that, the reason the movie does give us is a paper thin response to the question that you want to ask. Story-wise it's pretty by the numbers, you know how it goes and how it ends. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does feel like there was more to this story that we didn't get to see.

Acting

This is Sanaa Latham's movie from start to finish. She has the best performance in the film, although that isn't the highest praise because the other performances felt very wooden and one-dimensional.
Could someone else have played this role? yes. Was Sanaa Latham bad? No.
There just wasn't anything particularly memorable about her performance in this movie. She has her comedic moments and they work because of her delivery. The more emotional moments work however they don't always hit the mark. She has good chemistry with the rest of the cast especially Lynn Whitfield who plays her mum.

Anyone familiar with Lynn Whitfield already knows the kind of character she plays in this movie because it's the same character she plays in every project she's in and it works for her.

The other actors in this movie work with what they're given. At no point did any of the performances stand out to me as great or bad, they were all perfectly fine, which isn't the best thing to say about the acting in a film but none of the performances left a lasting impression.

Writing/Direction

The main plot thread in this movie is Violet's relationship with her hair and through the loss of her hair, she learns to love her herself and live her life for herself. I have no issue with the message because it's one that everyone needs to learn at one point or another, however, the execution was pretty mediocre.

As mentioned earlier the performances in this movie come across as wooden and this is due to the one-dimensional writing. The only character that feels like a person is Violet and that is in the last 1/3 of the film. For the most part, her character is hollow and never really feels like a real person. Granted that is the point of the story, and that is my point. The characters in this movie are written as Rom-com archetypes. The woman with the perfect life, job and boyfriend that isn't actually perfect and needs to find out what it means to be her. The overbearing mother that is the cause of her daughter's constant strive for perfection. The quippy best friend and the softer friend who is mostly there as an echo. The second love interest who shows the main character who she really is. The characters aren't people, they're there to advance the plot and get Violet from point A to point B.

This is an adaptation of a book written by Trisha R. Thomas, which could explain why the film feels as though it was missing something, which can occur with book-to-movie adaptations.

The director of this movie is Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first female director from Saudi Arabia, an incredible achievement for herself and for Netflix. That being said, there is nothing special about the direction in this movie which tends to be the case with movies like this.

Set Design

There is a scene that takes place at the Atlanta Botanical Garden which is absolutely stunning. The set design is a perfect reflection of the story and the characters in this movie. A lot of the locations in this film reflect a change in Violet as the movie progresses. She goes to places that the 'Old Violet' would never have gone to. Visual cues like that made the movie more dynamic and interesting and I started paying attention to where Violet was and how she reacted to those locations.
 I don't know if that was a deliberate choice made by the filmmakers but it's something that really stood out and made a difference.

Score/Soundtrack

This film is more soundtrack driven rather than score driven, which is a missed opportunity. There are scenes in this film that would have benefited from an emotional score rather than an emotional song. That way you could focus on what the character is feeling rather than the song playing in the background which did happen. That is not to say the song choices were bad, for the most part, they reflect the characters emotions, however, a beautiful score would have elevated a lot of the scenes.

Overall Thoughts

This is one of those movies that appears to have a lot going on but is quite superficial as you watch it. Not every movie has to have a deep underlying message but this one promotes it and doesn't really deliver. In an attempt to wrap up the story in a cute bow, the resolution occurs in the last 10 minutes of the movie, leaving you unsatisfied with the ending.

This movie is a step in the right direction, seeing a woman go on a journey and discover herself is a fulfilling concept but this movie feels like something is missing. As a black woman, who has been in a love-hate relationship with her hair it's great to Violet embrace her natural hair like many women are doing today, however, I got really tired of Violet whining about her hair, it got really boring and I started to lose interest. Granted the movie is called 'Nappily Ever After' so the constant attention drawn to hair is something to be expected.

This isn't a bad movie, but I honestly expected more from it.


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