There are not always positive images of African Americans and Latinos in film.
Usually, they are playing goofballs, criminals or police officers; however, almost every six months, the affluent African American or Latino can count on being able to see their own race living an upscale lifestyle.
This time around, Rick Famuyiwa, who directed Brown Sugar and The Wood, has directed another film worth watching, Our Family Wedding.
For the plot of Our Family Wedding, think Guess Who, Latin style. Lucia Ramirez (played by America Ferrera) and Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross) have decided to get married. Their plan seems hitch-proof; except for one hiccup: Lucia hasn’t told her parents about Marcus. Meanwhile, Miguel Ramirez (Carlos Mencia) and Brad Boyd (Forest Whitaker), Lucia’s and Marcus’ fathers, respectively, meet by chance and are instant enemies.
Famuyiwa, who wrote this script along with Wayne Conley and Malcolm Spellman, has crafted a nice tug-o-war between ethnicities. Sometimes, when the ethnic division is the central plot, filmmakers tend to go overboard in showing the great divide. Thankfully, this film is no dog-and-pony show. None of the Latin characters is too Latin. None of the African-American characters is too African-American.
Famuyiwa seems to be quite the capable director. His scenic views of Los Angeles are gorgeous, and Brad’s mansion is so immaculate and hi-tech that it becomes a character in itself. I also like Famuyiwa’s use of color and simple aesthetics. Both Brad’s and Miguel’s houses are gorgeous on the outside and the inside. Famuyiwa also made good use of color in clothing, furniture, decoration and landscaping.
Of course, the credit can’t all go to Famuyiwa. There are three people who made this film totally visually appealing: Linda Burton, the production designer, Gia Grosso, the set decorator, and especially Hope Hanafin, the costume designer.
In the press notes of the film, it is stated that: “Her on screen task involved differentiating all of the varying cultures and social backgrounds of the characters from a visual standpoint.”
Hanafin did her job quite well. From the beautiful purple dress Ferrera wears to dinner with her family, to Ferrera’s gorgeous wedding dress, Hanafin transforms Ferrera into a sexy goddess.
Speaking of Ferrera, I was overjoyed to see this “Ugly Betty” alter ego as a sexy woman and not a loud-color wearing dork. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch Betty Suarez onscreen, but it almost feels sacrilegious to bury such a beautiful actress under all of those mismatched layers.
Gross, as the groom to be, probably didn’t have a hard time playing Marcus. Seeing as he’s slated to walk down the aisle himself, it probably wasn’t a stretch to play the in-love Marcus. I wouldn’t, however, call his chemistry with Ferrera seamless. There seemed to be something missing.
Mencia is toned down and just right as Miguel, who has a hot wife at home, but prefers to spend his free time fondling cars. I was surprised to see him play the role of a loving father of two grown girls and be believable. I didn’t know he had it in him.
Regina King as Brad’s lawyer and Marcus’ stand-in stepmother is great, but I wish she had more sex appeal. Just because she represents the working woman in her early forties, not willing to be a sexpot, doesn’t mean she has to be so muted.
Diana-Maria Riva, who plays Sonia, Lucia’s mother, and Anjelah Johnson, who plays Isabella, her other daughter, make a good pair. Johnson’s Isabella not only provides the female comic relief, but she also says what the audience is thinking. Riva and Johnson are quite talented, and they need to star in more films.
Last, Whitaker as Daddy Brad is suave, and shows his funny side. I don’t think I have seen this side of him on the screen. It is a joy to watch, though. I hope to see more of his comedic side.
Our Family Wedding is an entertaining look at people of color and how they interact with other ethnicities. I had a good time at the movies watching this film.
I’m sure you will, too.