She's Gotta Have Him

Interracial relationships aren't exactly new in Hollywood movies--remember "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"? But what was the last romantic comedy in which the babe was black and the hunk was white? The aptly titled "Something New," directed by Sanaa Hamri and written by Kriss Turner, offers just such a romance. Kenya (Sanaa Lathan), a well-educated thirtysomething CPA in search of the perfect African-American mate, finds slim pickings. On a blind date, she meets a white landscaper named Brian (Simon Baker), who has a we-are-the-world attitude toward relationships. She's reluctant to date him again but hires him to work on her new house, and eventually... but why ruin the surprise?

At first glance, this role reversal doesn't seem to make box-office sense. Thirteen percent of African-American men marry outside their race, as opposed to just 5 percent of African-American women. But another statistic suggests there might be an audience for "Something New": 42.5 percent of African-American women are unmarried. "I'd heard so much about the issue of black women not being able to find men that it was a natural subject to tackle," says Turner, who's also the executive producer of UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris." "I knew I really had an idea when I discussed this with Chris Rock and he said black women should explore their options more in dating."

Unlike many African-American films of the past, "Something New" uses black high society as a backdrop, including eye-candy cotillions that introduce the young daughters of upwardly mobile parents. And it goes to great lengths not to criticize or stereotype African-American men. Kenya's requisite short fling before finding true love is with a suave African-American lawyer (played by Blair Underwood). Still, says the film's producer Stephanie Allain (who also produced "Hustle & Flow"), "we wanted to encourage African-American women and women of color to think more outside the box. We've been reluctant to do that for a long time. We've been very loyal to black men, but times have changed. We also wanted to make sure the guy was hot. The typical blond, blue eyes--hot."

Unlike other interracial films, which play the differences between the partners for laughs, "Something New" focuses on the similarities. "We show how the two people share their worlds with each other," says Allain. "They both compromise to be in each other's worlds." Which isn't to say there aren't comic possibilities. When Brian takes Kenya hiking, a rainstorm gives her major hair problems. When she takes him to a black comedy club, Brian ends up the butt of a joke: "Either you're getting your swirl on or you're with your probation officer."

But all kidding aside, this is a movie whose star takes its message personally. "I've dated interracially in the past," says the Yale-educated Lathan, "and it's good to know you have the option. To be in a film where a black woman is desired by all men is something I feel grateful to be a part of." Audiences may feel the same. Guess who's coming to a theater near you.

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