Sabrina (Paula Patton) is from a wealthy, upper-class family with a mansion on Martha’s Vineyard. Jason (Laz Alonso) is from a blue-collar family in Brooklyn. They fall in love, he proposes, and there’s just one obstacle to their happily ever after ending — bringing those two families together for the wedding. When Shakespeare said that the course of true love never did run smooth, it might very well have been the culture clash that accompanies any joining of two families he was thinking of.
We meet Sabrina as she realizes she is about to take the walk of shame. It is the morning after what she thought of as a promising relationship but he thought of as a one-night stand. She decides to make a major change. If God will send her a true love, she will honor herself and that relationship by not having sex until they are married. And then she literally runs into Jason. They have to make a decision about their future together very quickly when she is transferred to China. He proposes, she accepts, and their perfect little bubble of love is intruded on by just about everyone. It’s hard to say which is worse, the family members who are trying to hide their feelings or the ones who are over-sharing.
Sabrina’s parents (Angela Bassett and Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell) are barely speaking to each other. She thinks he is having an affair and is hurt and angry. Jason’s mother (Loretta Devine) feels neglected and intimidated. As often happens at weddings, the happy couple reflects the strains of their family conflicts and has some of their own, as the “ever after” part of the deal sparks some panic. And, as often happens at weddings, a lot of the attendees are looking for love or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Patton and Alonso are in every way the heart of the film. Patton is as effervescent and refreshing as a chilled glass of champagne and Alonso is endearingly open-hearted and gallant. While the script requires them to behave so inconsistently and immaturely at times that even by wedding craziness standards it is hard to reconcile, they are performers of such immeasurable grace and charm that we keep rooting for them. The script also throws a seasons worth of soapy complications their way, but director Salim Akil is skillful in balancing the drama and melodrama along with some romance and comedy as well. The situations and dialogue may be overdone but the characters always feel real, their poor behavior coming believably from fear and pain and not just the need for another confrontation. He stays well on the safe side of caricature but is not afraid to weigh into tough questions of race, class, faith, money, and identity — and to allow every side some dignity and grace.
Parents should know that this movie has many sexual references and a non-explicit situation, characters talk about waiting for sex until they are married, and there are tense family confrontations about secrets and betrayal.
Family discussion: Why was it so important to Sabrina to wait until marriage before having sex with Jason? Who in the movie had a good relationship and how can you tell? What unrealistic expectations do people have about weddings? About marriage?
If you like this, try: “Lovers and Other Strangers” and “Daddy’s Little Girls”