How do you make a movie that feels totally fresh despite the fact that it follows a fairly-transparent blueprint for a romantic comedy formula? Ask Sanaa Hamri, for not only did she first achieve this same feat back in 2006 with her directorial debut, Something New, but she’s now done it again with Just Wright, a syrupy-sweet love story guaranteed to leave you in tears as the closing credits roll, even though there’s never a doubt about how it will all end.
The picture stars Queen Latifah as Leslie Wright, a physical therapist and lifelong New Jersey Nets fan. She’s obsessed with the team because she was taken to their basketball games as a child by her father (James Pickens, Jr.) who raised her like the son he never had. Consequently, today the 35-year-old tomboy still goes to see them play regularly, always wearing jeans and a Nets jersey.
And while her dad has no problems with the casual attire, the unflattering look simply doesn’t sit well with her mother (Pam Grier) who’s concerned about whether her daughter will ever get married. Meanwhile, the same can’t be said about Leslie’s gorgeous godsister, Morgan (Paula Patton). This shameless gold-digger could care less about the NBA, yet spends countless hours primping herself in front of the mirror in order to attract a wealthy all-star from the stands.
The most-desirable eligible bachelor on the Nets squad is point guard Scott McNight (Common) a two-time league MVP and a perfect gentleman to boot. Leslie and Scott’s paths cross the night of the season opener, not at the stadium, but purely by chance after the game when they both stop to fill their tanks at the same gas station. She strikes up a conversation, sparks fly, and he invites her to his upcoming birthday party.
However, against her better judgment, she extends the invitation to Morgan who ends up turning his head at the soiree, and it’s not long before she has a gaudy engagement ring on her finger. The plot triangulates when Scott suffers a career-threatening knee injury on the court and needs months of rehabilitation. Re-enter Leslie, the only female therapist possessive Morgan is willing to trust not to try to sabotage her impending wedding which she sees as a big payday.
Will Scott wise-up during and realize which of the two women is capable of really loving him for himself, or will he marry a shallow witch who’s only interested in his bank account? The only surprise here is that, in spite of telegraphing its punches, Just Wright nonetheless has you reaching for a Kleenex in spite of yourself.
A sentimental soap opera well-enough executed to push all the right emotional buttons!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets and suggestive material.
Running time: 101 Minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight