At the start of the interracial romantic comedy Something New, Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) doesn’t have a groove to lose, so there’s no point trying to get it back. A beautiful, educated thirtysomething African-American executive on her way to making partner at a fancy L.A. accounting firm, she’s a go-getter who’s got everything except a man. New house of her own? Check. Well-made suits and an expensive hair weave? Done. Attractive TV-type black girlfriends with whom to commiserate about the elusive IBM — Ideal Black Man? Yep. Kenya is no charity case — she’s the daughter of snobby African-American elites, a flower of black society — but she does stoop to accepting a blind date set up by a (white, Jewish) office mate. Leave it to those naively liberal Jews: Guess who’s coming to dinner? Brian Kelly (Aussie hunk Simon Baker), irreversibly white, is the very opposite of a black man, so Kenya ditches him as a date (she’s a formidable paragon of goal-setting self-discipline), hires him as the landscape architect he is, and begins the slow learning curve toward letting new love in, even as it means letting go of old assumptions. (Lest the deck look too stacked, Blair Underwood shows up as an official IBM.)
Of course, the deck is stacked. And the movie — a feature-directorial debut by Sanaa Hamri, with a script by TV vet Kriss Turner — is a shaky piece of work, with stumpy cinematography, choppy edits, speechy dialogue, and loose plotlines. And yet: There’s an easygoing authenticity to the depiction of Kenya and her world — as well as to the serious issues between black women and white men — that coexists with the picture’s many weaknesses. In other words, out of a genre stereotype rut, Something New finds a way to exhale.