It occured to me as I watched this movie that this was the third time in the last few months that I was watching a large black woman bringing shock and awe to to a bunch of slender, clueless white chicks at a chi-chi spa. We had Queen Latifah in Last Holiday and Martin Lawrence (pretending to be a woman) in Big Momma’s House 2.
And now we have Mo’Nique as Jazmin Biltmore, a store clerk with big dreams of becoming a fashion designer to bring style and pride to women who are not what she refers to as skinny b—-es. And even though this movie is a bit of a mess, it turns out to be unexpectedly sweet and funny. Its very amateurishness gives it freshness and authenticity, a sharp contrast to the overfed formulas of the other two films and most of the rest of the multiplex fodder the studios crank out.
This movie is really a throwback to those 1940’s films about the deserving heroines with big dreams. I think most of the time, they were played by Susan Hayward. Jazmin talks about how proud she is of the way she looks and when she feels insulted by someone who calls her fat she proves herself by throwing tougher and sassier insults calling her victim ugly. But when it comes time to stand up to her petty despot of a boss and show her fashion designs to the store’s buyer (Eric Roberts) or believe she might be worthy of love from Tunde (Jimmy Jean-Louis), a handsome Nigerian doctor, her insecurity shows. She makes some mistakes and learns some painful lessons. But when she is really ready to love herself, the world is ready to love her, too.
Parents should know that this movie really pushes the edges of the PG-13 rating with extremely strong language and sexual references and situations that take it right up to the edge of an R. It would have received an R rating but for the MPAA’s looser standards for comedies. There is frequent use of the b-word, but there is also a very good scene in which Tunde shows Jazmin that her casual use of the word is a symptom of her conflicted feelings about herself. While one couple has enthusiastic casual sex and Jazmin is willing to have sex with Tunde almost immediately, he also shows her that it is a sign of respect and hope for a long-term relationship to wait. A gay character is portrayed with some stereotyping but is also treated with affection and respect.
Families who see this movie should talk about what Jazmin was secure about and what made her feel insecure. How did her experience with Tunde change her? What will happen next? Families should talk about what we should and should not let others’ images of us determine about the way we feel about ourselves.
Families who enjoy these movies will also enjoy Tyler Perry’s Medea movies, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and other “ugly duckling” stories from Funny Girl to Roxanne, which has an insult-trading scene inspired by Cyrano de Bergerac, its source material, that is much like the one in this movie.