So why, asks Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, is Hollywood once again so surprised?

By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
October 29, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

”The Best Man”’s box office success makes perfect sense

African-Americans buy movie tickets. A lot of ’em. If this concept makes you slap your forehead and exclaim in wonder, then you must be running a Hollywood studio.

What, exactly, is it going to take to make this point sink in? Lord knows, I’m bored of it: It feels like every other year, I write an article that says, ”Wow! With (insert here: ”Waiting to Exhale,” ”Soul Food,” ”Love Jones,” ”Boyz ‘N the Hood,” etc), Hollywood is realizing it’s time to change its ways! Hold your breath because here come more movies that aren’t just stereotypical hood flicks!” If you listened and held your breath, you must be in a coma by now.

So once again, along comes ”The Best Man.” And man, does it come along, opening at No. 1 in a packed weekend. I’ve seen the film, and it’s a lovely, heartfelt, funny movie, but it’s not… how can I say this… the kind of movie destined to become No. 1. You can see the shoestring budget, you can guess the end right at the beginning, and the group of people it is about are so beautiful, so highly educated, so moneyed and sophisticated, it certainly isn’t a hey-we’re-all-in-the-same-boat kind of flick.

Which means, as far as I can tell, that audiences are desperate to see some, ANY, depiction of African-American life, even if it’s a life few of us are privileged to lead. (For example, Taye Diggs plays a writer living in a glorious townhouse. May I be the one to offer a small reality check here?)

In the past, I would have said that ”The Best Man” sweeping the box office is great news. I would have said that this means right at this instant, jealous studios are frantically trying to come up with ”The Next Best Man.” And I hope, I really hope, that this is the case. But this time around, I’m going to suggest you go ahead and exhale.

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