A LOT OF NOTHING
(director/writer: Mo McRae; screenwriters: Sarah Kelly Kaplan; cinematographer: John Rosario; editor: Annie Eifrig; music:David Sardy; cast: Justin Hartley(Brian), Y’lan Noel (James), Cleopatra Coleman (Vanessa), Shamier Anderson (Jamal), Andrew Leeds (Ted), Sheila Carrasco (Olivia), Lex Scott Davis (Candy); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Mo McRae, Inny Clemons, Jason Tamasco, Zak Kristofek: Anonymous Content; 2022)
“It raises timely racial concerns that make for uneasy viewing.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Intriguing but overstuffed debut film of actor-turned-director Mo McRae that in its over-zealousness gives us too much of a racial thing (about stereotyping and white privilege), as it derails in the final act by forcing its message on us. McRae co-writes it with Sarah Kelly Kaplan, and keeps the topical drama tense, theatrical and stylish as it raises timely racial concerns that make for uneasy viewing.
The twenty-minute opening prologue is shot in one take, as it introduces the leading characters and points out their upward mobility showing off their new luxurious house in Los Angeles. They are sitting on their comfy living-room sofa watching the evening news, quite pleased with themselves. The successful and smart married Black couple, the lawyer James (Y’lan Noel) and his educated wife Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman, Australian actress), are glued to their Big Screen TV sets looking at an ugly incident of an “officer-involved shooting.” The lower-class white cop who killed the unarmed Black kid happens to be their less affluent next-door neighbor Brian (Justin Hartley).
The brandy drinking couple become inebriated over the evening. James who at first tuned his wife out as she got her dander up about wanting to do something about the incident, in his tipsy state forgoes his usual cautious approach to such possible racial incidents to listen to his angry wife. Thereby they write a strongly opinionated Facebook post.
In the prologue’s background we hear the moody improv jazz score of David Sardy.
That night when the couple role play the incident with a gun, wifey gets turned on sexually. In the morning the couple go to work, as the previous night is forgotten as only “A lot of nothing.”
Returning after her workday, the heated Vanessa has a confrontation with the unpunished Brian and at gunpoint takes him to their garage and tapes him to a chair.
Things are awkward when they hide the kidnapped cop from their dinner guests — James’ dope-smoking, militant brother Jamal (Shamier Anderson) and his pregnant, vegan, crystal-touting girlfriend Candy (Lex Scott Davis).
In this clever satire, no one is spared from their foolishness. McRae is at his best when he’s playful or laying on us some bitter-sweet lessons how we can so easily get trapped by our own negativism and not see it until it’s too late.
It played at the SXSW Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 3/16/2022 GRADE: B