By Lisa Schwarzbaum
June 26, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Christopher scott Cherot, the writer, producer, director, editor, and star of Hav Plenty, is also the chief (and considerable) source of charm in this jaunty, loosely stitched African-American love comedy. The 30-year-old may be new to the movie game, but he announces himself with such confidence and force of personality, you know a noteworthy talent has arrived. Cherot owes a lot to the movie conventions of Woody Allen?he talks directly to the audience, he posits himself as a sort of artlessly appealing nebbish, and at one point, in a brash homage to/theft of Annie Hall, there?s even a film-within-the-film scene with actors recreating a romantic tangle we?ve just witnessed. But Cherot favors droll knowledge of his own buppie world over hyper-analytic neurosis. And he comes up with a fresh take on the still underdeveloped movie territory Waiting to Exhale definitively proved is ripe for tilling: middle-class black romance.

Cherot plays Lee Plenty, a would-be novelist with no particular address who falls hard for well-to-do, hard-to-get Havilland Savage (newcomer Chenoa Maxwell). Plenty has trouble making headway with the object of his affection (for one thing, she?s already got a fiancé). Meanwhile, he connects with the rest of Hav?s crowd, including her grandma (Betty Vaughn), her married sister (Robinne Lee), and her vampish, hot-for-Plenty girlfriend (Tammi Katherine Jones). ?Nancy! Sluggo! Elvira!? is how he greets Hav?s sister, brother-in-law, and pal. Clearly Cherot has put his pop-cultural scholarship to good use.

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