We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
For the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, I felt it appropriate to check out a romance for #WayBackWednesday. Love & Basketball is a film that I’d heard good things about, but I’d not really checked out myself before this week. I remember seeing trailers growing up, but it wasn’t one that I caught in the theater or on TV.
This film came recommended by more than one Fangirlish staff writer and I’m glad I watched it. Did you watch this one back in the day? Check out the trailer for Love & Basketball and let’s get started with #WayBackWednesday.
Love & Basketball is written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Shots Fired, Cloak & Dagger) and produced by Spike Lee (Malcolm X). Spike Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule got into a bidding war for the film after a script reading at the Sundance Film Festival and eventually won out.
Love & Basketball tells the story of a young couple, Monica and Quincy, (Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps) growing up and working through their love of the game and love for each other while pursuing their dreams of NBA glory. There are several things I really enjoyed about Love & Basketball. Here are a few of the reasons I enjoy it and I think you’ll enjoy them too.
This film is a real master class when it comes to storytelling and structure. Prince-Bythewood frames the film within the 4 quarters of a basketball game. That’s visible with each act. However, anyone could do that and it not really contribute anything meaningful to the story. Instead, Prince-Bythewood very carefully mirrors lines and moments in the story.
She takes what could be minor things or small throwaway lines and gives each one emotional gravitas, most notably the pick-up games at the beginning and end of the film. I only was able to watch the film once prior to writing this column, but I’m sure I could notice even more with subsequent watches. I really want to elaborate further, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. If you’ve seen this one, leave me a comment and we’ll talk because there’s so much I’d love to geek out about with this film in regards to storytelling.
Strong Female Protagonist
I’ve almost come to abhor the phrase “strong female protagonist” because it’s so overused, it’s practically lost its meaning. However, I have no other adequate words to describe Monica Wright in Love & Basketball. Monica is very different from most female leads in romantic films. She’s tomboyish, headstrong, knows what she wants, and won’t settle for less. She’s not passive or fawning.
She can dish it out AND take it. The line early in the film about her mom finding her box of dresses out in the garage under a box of rags made me laugh out loud, as that’s definitely something I would have done at age eleven. I don’t watch a lot of romantic films or rom-coms because I don’t usually relate to the female leads. Monica’s personality was very relatable to me and a breath of fresh air. More leading ladies like Monica, please!
Love & Basketball’s soundtrack is still a lot of fun 21 years later. I threw it on this morning during my workout and it really kept me going. The soundtrack features R&B and hip-hop from the time, which in my opinion, spin just as well today. There are some classics, like “Love and Happiness” by Al Green and “Just Got Paid” by Johnny Kemp, but there are many tracks that are notably absent from the released soundtrack, including “Just Got Paid.” Check out several of the compiled song playlists on Spotify for the complete rundown of songs from the film.
Need a good film to set the mood for Valentine’s Day? Want a film that’s full of black joy? Want more than just the standard fare romance movie? I wholeheartedly recommend Love & Basketball.