111 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, October 27, 2000 (SF)
Written & directed by Kwyn Bader
Starring Hill Harper, Lauren Holloman, Nicole Ari Parker, Sandrine Holt, David Moscow, Andre Blake, John Doman, Elisa Donovan & Phylicia Rashad
Sensitive guy ropes other men's girlfriends while seeking true love in insincere 'Loving Jezebel'
Written by a man (Kwyn Bader) who has convinced himself he knows what women want, "Loving Jezebel" is a film about a sensitive-guy lady-killer with a bad habit of coveting women who are spoken for.
After a prologue in which our hero is freeze-framed while jumping out a window to escape an angry and armed jealous husband, Theodorus (Hill Harper) laments in voice-over about how it all started in kindergarten with a girl named Nicky Noodleman.
In a two-reel run through high school and college (rife with amped-up '80s and first-sex clichés), Theo comes off like a whiney puppy dog type, actually begging for dates and -- here's where the picture's credibility goes straight out the window -- getting girls to say "yes" this way. See, they all have insensitive boyfriends and he's so tender, blah, blah, blah.
The biggest problem with "Loving Jezebel" is that it seems to be angled toward a female audience, yet the string of female leads are all one-note fantasy girls given fabricated depth by way of personality quirks. There's the college-age virgin (Nicole Ari Parker) who sleeps with him because he spouts some poetic nonsense about jazz. There's the teddy bear girl (Elisa Donovan) whose bed is blanketed with stuffed animals. There's the worldly chick from Trinidad (Sandrine Holt) who oozes sexuality and wears spaghetti-strapped leotards and sarongs.
The circumstances of these romances are all highly contrived. Much of the time the dialogue is even more so ("That night I believed again in the magic of life..."). Harper certainly garners audience sympathy because he really is a sensitive guy, but he's unconvincing as a Romeo who "loves all the things about women their men don't love." What is this, a Luther Vandross song?
If Theo were being depicted as a dog who learns to love, "Loving Jezebel" might have been obnoxious and unoriginal, but at least there would have been a story arc to this "romantic" comedy. Instead, this hero is depicted as a guy who loves all women and just hasn't found the right one yet...
Until the last reel, of course. Whose husband do you think he was running away from? Samantha (Laurel Holloman) is an unhappy young married who anguishes over attempted poetry every day in the coffee shop in the Village, where Theo works. What they share is, apparently, special -- or so says Theo in the voice-over. We'll just have to take his word for it because the movie doesn't tell us any more than that.