Medicine for Melancholy

Movies Reviews Barry Jenkins
Medicine for Melancholy

Speed Racer

Release Date: Feb. 4 (Jan. 30 – New York)

Director/Writer: Barry Jenkins

Cinematographer: James Laxton

Starring: Wyatt Cenac, Tracey Heggins

Studio/Run Time: IFC Films, 88 mins.

Easy on the eyes, heavy on dialogue

Writer/director Barry Jenkins and his cinematographer James Laxton ought to host seminars about how to shoot a feature on video. Jenkins’ first film, Medicine for Melancholy, glides with a color palette so muted that, at times, it looks like black-and-white. It’s easy on the eyes, and it even dovetails nicely with the themes. Wyatt Cenac (of The Daily Show) and Tracey Heggins star in a story that plays like Before Sunrise in reverse: An African-American man and woman have a one-night stand and spend the following day wandering San Francisco and chatting about the city’s dwindling black population. The demographic shift, which he views politically, has scarcely crossed her brow. Through their tentative relationship, the film weaves an intriguing commentary on race, class and personal identity. The trick of minimalism, though, is to hide ideas inside sparse scenes, and Jenkins is too often balancing over-stuffed dialogue with undernourished carousel rides and dances. But his willingness to take on heavy issues and handle them with a light, sexy touch shows not only a filmmaker with serious intentions but one who processes his world through his art.

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