Love Jones: A love letter on the cult classic's anniversary
One thing that can elevate a movie from just a good way to spend two hours to something you treasure is resonance. I learned that 15 years ago when Love Jones hit theaters and for the first time that I could remember I saw myself and my friends on the big screen.
This Chicago-set love story between Darius Lovehall (Lorenz Tate) and Nina Moseley (Nia Long) was infused with the kind of poetry and soul searching dialogue that swept across college campuses in the nineties, and it spoke to so many of us 20-something African Americans fresh off of college life, figuring out what came next.
These were intelligent, creative types (a writer and photographer) working out what it meant to be friends, lovers, and just plain grownups together. They weren’t struggling against the system or overcoming some injustice. They were just two beautiful people working out relationship issues, hanging with friends, and heating up the screen whenever they were together. At a time when it felt like Black movies were either about extreme circumstances (“important black message movies” as one friend calls them) or absurd comedies, this was neither.
And did I mention that fantastic soundtrack that featured tracks ranging from Lauryn Hill and the Refugees to Maxwell to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane? The movie may only have grossed $12 million but the soundtrack went to 16 on the Billboard 200 that year. And together it made Love Jones a cult hit, living on in DVDs.
Was it a little overly earnest? Maybe. But this one and only feature film from director Theodore Witcher, who was 24 years old when he made it and based it on his own dating experience, was just right for that time.
Long recently told Essence that she and Tate would be interested in doing a sequel, but only if “we’re going to do it right,” expressing a reverence for the movie’s cult status. While my interest is piqued to see a 21st century Darius and Nina, I wouldn’t mind keeping them as they were 15 years ago. It’s a snapshot of my generation, who we were and who we wanted to be.