30 October 2017



'I make my living with my lips.'

'It's a dick thing.'

I absolutely loved this film and, even though I'm by no means a jazz expert or aficionado, like Lisa Simpson from THE SIMPSONS, I do always seem to really enjoy films about jazz musicians and jazz music with gorgeous, chocolatey-smooth jazzy soundtracks.

And for those of you who immediately stopped reading this review when you saw the word 'jazz,' well, I guess you won't get to hear about all the great sex Denzel Washington has in the film with not one, but no fewer than two beautiful women. So there, haha.

Denzel Washington, an extremely attractive young fella, plays Bleek Gilliam (cool name, huh?), a jazz trumpeter who makes his living by performing his music with his jazz quintet at a nightclub owned by the Flatbush brothers.

Bleek is young, good-looking, talented and extremely ambitious with a Dad who worships the ground he walks on and, at first glance, it looks like he's leading something of a charmed life. Most of us are lucky, after all, if we're blessed with even one or two of those attributes but Bleek Gilliam, baby, he's got 'em all.

As the movie progresses, however, it's obvious that there are little complications in Bleek's life that are threatening to become much bigger ones. It's like when a little thread comes loose in your favourite jumper and, if you yank on it or ignore it, sooner or later you'll notice that the whole feckin' thing has unravelled and you were barely even aware of its happening.

Bleek's band member Shadow Henderson is vying with Bleek for the position of top dog in their musical quintet. Shadow is also stirring things up with one of Bleek's girlfriends, Clarke (yes, I said one!), who's looking for her big singing break in Bleek's band but Bleek won't give it to her. He wants the quintet to be all about him, not some bird he's, ahem, boning. They use that expression in the film a lot so it's okay for me to use it here, tee-hee.

Anyway, Shadow keeps implying to an impressionable Clarke, who's as ambitious as Bleek in her own way, that if he were to go out on his own and form his own jazz band, there would be a place for Clarke as a singer in it. Then they could both tell Bleek to go to hell.

There's a certain element of jealousy involved here as well, of course, as Shadow probably just wants to be able to say that he can take Bleek's gal away from him any time if he wants to. Plus, Clarke is a beautiful and talented woman as well, anyway. What guy wouldn't want to, erm, bone her...?

Indigo is Bleek's other girlfriend, a much more suitable one for him probably. She's not involved in any way with the showbusiness scene and she doesn't like the smoky, boozy club scene that Bleek has to frequent in his job.

She's either a teacher or a student, she's hard-working, honest and sincere and she really, truly loves Bleek. I'm not saying that Clarke doesn't love him also but Clarke's love is tempered with her own personal ambitions for herself and her singing.

Bleek is dating both of 'em, he's sleeping with both of 'em, they each know about each other and they each hate the idea that they're not the only one. But Bleek is so cute, personable and genuinely likeable and he's obviously such a great lover that neither of them can give him up.

Every time he sleeps with one of them, he's giving them false hope but he gets out of it by
claiming that he's not looking for a commitment right now. He is so full of typical lying-man bullshit, it really makes me angry. It makes me even angrier, however, that both women are fully aware that he's full of shit but they still won't kick him to the kerb where he belongs.

It reminds me of VANILLA SKY (2002), starring Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz. Tom Cruise plays handsome playboy publishing billionaire David Aames, who inherited all his vast fortune from his deceased Pops so it's not like he even has a good work ethic of his own to be going on with.

Anyway, Cameron Diaz as Julie Gianni is David's 'fuck-buddy,' the woman he has sex with when he's feeling horny but doesn't feel like making any effort. Julie is head-over-heels in love with David but David doesn't give a flying fuck.

He doesn't even invite poor Julie to his birthday party, the party at which he meets Penelope Cruz's Sofia Serrano character and falls in love with her. This leaves Julie even more out in the cold, which has horrific consequences for David but he can't say he didn't ask for everything he gets. He treated Julie like shit, after all.

There's this hilarious scene in MO' BETTER BLUES where Spike Lee, as Bleek's diminutive little manager Giant (that's the joke!), comes backstage at a gig and tips Bleek the wink that both of his women have turned up at the club at the same time. On the same night. Each wearing the same red dress that Bleek has bought for them, foolishly presuming that they'd never meet and notice that they were suspiciously clashing...

The sex scenes are gorgeous to look at. Sexy music, sexy settings and the smooth, fluid movement of the womens' sleek bodies against Bleek's more muscular one. I was quite turned on watching 'em all get it on together, haha, Bleek with Indigo and then Bleek with Clarke and vice versa and vice versa and then vice versa again.

It becomes confusing for Bleek in the end, though. Whom is he with now? Whom does he love? Whom does he only fancy, or does he actually love both of them? It's only a matter of time before the big gobshite cries out the wrong name mid-coitus. If and when that happens, Bleek Gilliam will have to man up and take the consequences of his actions...

Spike Lee is brilliant as Giant, who's been mates with Bleek since the third grade and who now manages the band. But neither Bleek nor the other members of his quintet have been satisfied with Giant's management of late.

He's consistently failed to negotiate a better financial contract for the lads with the management of the club where they work, in addition to which he's a sick, sick gambler with massive debts.

This last factor causes him to get an horrific beating from a pre-PULP FICTION Samuel L. Jackson in what is the hardest scene to watch in the whole film. Will Bleek step up to the plate to defend his old pal? And if he does, will it cost him the one thing he loves the most...?

Spike Lee got in loads of trouble for portraying the Jewish club-owners, Moe and Josh Flatbush, as money-hungry, money-grubbing accountant-types who are only ever seen in the club's back-room, totting up the profits. Talk about perpetuating negative Jewish stereotypes, people said, the kind of stereotypes that prevailed in Nazi Germany in the lead-up to the Second World War and the Holocaust.

Spike Lee's answer to this was to point out all the negative stereotyping of black African-American characters in one hundred years or so of Hollywood history. He also maintained that, if he were only ever allowed to portray Jewish characters as model citizens, there wasn't a lot of scope in there for any truths he may have wanted to put across. His exact words were:

"I stand behind all my work, including my characters, Moe and Josh Flatbush... if critics are telling me that to avoid charges of anti-Semitism, all Jewish characters I write have to be model citizens, and not one can be a villain, cheat or a crook, and that no Jewish people have ever exploited black artists in the history of the entertainment industry, that's unrealistic and unfair."

Personally, I feel that if something really happened, then you should be able to write about it. That's just my own take on it. Anyway, that's an argument that we could be still having when the cows come home. Suffice it to say that Spike Lee tells a great story in MO' BETTER BLUES. Fans of jazz, fans of Denzel Washington and fans of romantic drama will love it. Go on, treat yourself. You know you're worth it.

The film is out now on special Blu-Ray release from FABULOUS FILMS LTD/FREMANTLE MEDIA ENTERPRISES. 


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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