Thursday, October 22, 2009

Medicine for Melancholy DVD



DVD Review by Kam Williams


Headline: Award-Winning African-American Sit-Dram Due on DVD


                It’s understandable that Joanne (Tracey Heggins) and Micah (Wyatt Cenac) are a little awkward when they wake up together in the same bed the morning after enjoying a one-night stand. After all, they were so passionate when they met at a party that they never bothered to exchange names before exchanging bodily fluids.

                Joanne has misgivings about sleeping with a stranger, so she introduces herself as “Angela” especially since she already has a boyfriend who happens to be out of town. But then she leaves her wallet behind on the floor of the cab they share before going their separate ways. Consequently, Micah not only learns her real name from her driver’s license, but he’s able to track her down again.

He later shows up unannounced at her doorstep, determined to pursue a relationship. However, other than both being African-American, they soon find out that they have more differences than similarities. For instance, he’s a down-to-earth, blue-collar-type who wears a stingy-brimmed bike hat everywhere he goes, while she’s definitely a pampered princess with more refined tastes.

Micah irritates Joanne by complaining that blacks seem to be disappearing from rapidly-gentrifying San Francisco, leading her to wonder aloud whether he “has a big issue with race.” Despite the contrariness, the two still spend the day together, visiting a museum and riding on a merry-go-round as they get to know each other.

                Can an impulsive indulgence of lust lead to love? That is the burning question at the center of Medicine for Melancholy, an alternatively breezy and sophisticated sit-dram which marks the auspicious directorial and scriptwriting debut of Barry Jenkins.

Considerable credit for making the lead characters’ whirlwind romance riveting must go to the compelling performances delivered by Tracey Heggins and Wyatt Cenac, the talented pair of young thespians playing the protagonists. Their contentious relationship comes to a head when he defines himself as “black” and she reveals that the boyfriend she’s cheating on is white.

Micah asks why she’s involved with “some white dude.” Joanne, insulted by the presumptuous tone of the remark, responds with “That’s your problem. You limit yourself,” frostily punctuating her retort with the reminder that “I don’t even know you.” 

                A candid commentary on the state of the battle-of-the-sexes in a post-racial age of strangers with benefits. 


Excellent (4 stars)


Running time: 88 minutes

Studio: MPI Home Video

DVD Extras: Interview with director Barry Jenkins and the trailer.

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