Intelligent Drama About TV Business
Ibochild | Los Angeles, CA USA | 11/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DANCING IN SEPTEMBER is the long-form directing debut of Reggie Rock Bythewood, writer of GET ON THE BUS. Although the film had its world premiere at the 2000 Hollywood Black Film Festival, it was not widely seen until it premiered on HBO a year later.The film tells the story of Tommy Crawford (Nicole Ari Parker of TV's "Soul Food"), a staff writer on a television sitcom. When she dares speak her mind at a story meeting, the executive producer's fragile ego is bruised and Tommy abruptly gets the axe. Fortunately, all is not lost. Tommy pitches her own television series to a start-up television network (not unlike the WB or UPN). George Washington (Isaiah Washington), an ambitious executive at the network, sees Tommy's show as a way up the corporate ladder and champions the project. Before you know it, the series (called "Just Us") is on the network's fall line-up and a special bond develops between Tommy and George. Through it all, Tommy is forced to navigate through the politics of network television. As the saying goes, "Be careful of what you ask for, because you might get it."Isaiah Washington gives one of his best performances to date in DANCING IN SEPTEMBER. Unlike the Damon Wayans character in Spike Lee's similarly themed, BAMBOOZLED, George is believeable throughout the film. Although you may not always like George, his character is very consistent. Unlike, BAMBOOZLED, the story stays true to form, although there's a subplot that throws the film's equilibrium off slightly when it turns violent.One of the real highlights among the cast is Nicole Ari Parker's performance. She is fantastic in this film. Made before she signed on do to "Soul Food" for Showtime, it was her first starring role (not counting the fine featurette MUTE LOVE). Her dramatic range is quite impressive. In short, she brings a depth and intelligence to her character that is rarely seen in younger actors of today. Another reason to check out this movie is for Vicellous Reon Shannon's performance as James or "Semaj." He plays a street vendor that is cast in Tommy's series. Some of his scenes with Parker and with her "Soul Food" co-star, Malinda Williams are among the strongest in the film.For those who liked BAMBOOZLED, they should love this film. In many ways it is more effective in showing how television networks will do almost anything in their neverending pursuit of ratings. One of the reasons for this is probably the fact that Bythewood worked for many years as a writer for network television. He doesn't need to show actors in blackface to make his point, like Spike Lee did in his film.Also, actor for actor, the performances are much better in DANCING IN SEPTEMBER and more believeable than BAMBOOZLED. Even actors in relatively small roles get to shine. One that immediately comes to mind is that of Jenifer Lewis, who plays a character in Tommy's series.Other than what has been already mentioned, one warning about the film is that it is an insider's view of television. This might not appeal to some viewers that do not have a connection with "the business." It may seem foreign to them. Hopefully, viewers will look past that and just enjoy the film.In short, DANCING IN SEPTEMBER is a solid directorial debut for Reggie Rock Bythewood. It has quality acting, drama and something important to say about the world. Hopefully, we'll be seeing more from Bythewood and his fine ensemble in the near future. Last but not least, kudos go out to HBO for allowing audiences to see this very worthwhile film. Combined with Showtime, the Independent Film Channel, Black Starz! and the Sundance Channel, cable seems to be the place where intelligent films get their place to shine."
Dancing in September
S. M. Anderson | 11/13/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although some might like to compare this movie to Bamboozled, I find that they are similar in theme but from two different points of view. Bamboozled shows us the inside of the television sitcom from the actors point of view. Whereas Dancing in September, we get to see the workings of television from the writers/producers viewpoint . I found Dancing in September to be an excellent film. The writing was first rate and the acting was equally as good. I have been following Isaiah Washington's career from his early days on Living Single, and have admired how much he has grown as an actor. If you want to see what goes on behind the scenes of situation comedy, Dancing in September is the movie to see. If you've ever wondered why a somewhat funny character suddenly goes over the top then Dancing in September is the movie to watch."
Don't Be Fooled By The Title - This Is One Powerful Movie
P. T. J. | Detroit MI | 07/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Dancing in September" is one of those movies that comes up from your blind-side and knocks you to your knees. This movie has to be one of the most realistic, well written, acted, and powerful character development studies in a long, long time. I rented this movie, thinking I was getting a 'flick', just something to chill out to, y'know, you're typical feel good movie on par with "Love Jones", "Soul Food", "While You Were Sleeping" etc. A romantic comedy. Whew! *Whistles* Was I mistaken, but don't get me wrong! This movie is extremely powerful, more than that. This movie is effecting. Very effecting.There are many themes in the movie, but it seems the underlying theme that carries through the whole film is the power of television and the people behind it. The movie is pot-holed with interludes where people in the television industry share their comments and thoughts on the lives of the characters and the power of TV, (but don't worry, unlike many movies I can think of, this does not jar the flow of the movie, which is quite an accomplishment). One woman says (and no, this isn't an exact quote) that if a commercial can convince you that a certain ant-acid is the solution to your pain, or that one insurance company is the solution to your debt problems, then it can certainly convince someone that violence is the answer, can't it? This has been a long debated topic since the beginning of television, and Nicole Ari Parker squares off with Isaiah Washington over this very issue during the course of the movie, while trying to juggle their intertwining professions, relationsips, and ultimately, the morals that both bring them together and put them at odds. This movie shows the depth and evolution of a person superbly, portraying the effect television, power, money, love, hate, confusion, controversy and rejection have on a persons heart, soul, and life.The movie started out much as I expected it to, a reasonably interesting light hearted film centering on three main characters; Isaiah Washington, who plays an ambitious african-american with dreams of being an influential power in the television industry. Nicole Ari Parker plays a strong headed and strong willed african-american woman (as usual), but in this movie, she brings an extra element of magic to the character she gets type-casted into so often. There's a genuine emotion about her performance in this movie that feels real. Maybe it's because this is a topic that really does effect her, after all, she is an actress. Last, but not least, you have Vicellous Reon Shannon, who plays a confused youth caught up with the drama and baggage of a young daughter, an angry girlfriend, and her volatile gang-banger boyfriend. Shannon's character goes through the most phases of evolution, going from depressed and down on his luck, to fame in a second, to arrogance, to everything falling to pieces, and finally to the moment of truth, where everything that has piled up on his nerves and emotions climbs to a feverish climax, bringing every character in the movie to a confrontation of their own lives and decisions. Without Shannon's character, you wouldn't have a movie.The GREATEST feature of this movie, however, is that every character starts off relatively innocent and ambitious with strong-standing morals and visions for their life. Determined to stand their ground against the arrogant, greedy and emotionally blind executives in the TV industry who try to conform and supress their ideas, they find themselves slowly crushed, melted and molded to what the industry wants them to be, spurred inexorably into the fires by their own aspirations. What's so great about this, is that 3/4's of the way through the movie, each character in the movie has evolved into the one person whom they hated in the beginning of the story. Nicole Ari Parker becomes the self-absorbed screen writer, unable to hear the voice of other, perhaps wiser people. Isaiah Washington, who arguably had the lowest standards to begin with, becomes the dis-loyal father whom he's hated for so many years by abandoning Nicole Ari Parker's character in her moment of need. Last, but not least, Shannon's character ends up drawn back to his old image of gangsta, a man of the streets, and evolves consequently into the image of his baby-mother's volatile boyfriend whom he's been so opposed to since the beginning of the film.Finally, each character finding themselves at a point in their lives they swore they would never be at, they are all faced with several life-changing decisions, and in a climax that will you leave you utterly breathless, fall back to ground-zero, each character in a different way, forced to take a look back on their life and what effects their decisions may have had on their peers, friends, and relationships."Dancing in September" is a sombre, accurate and moving character study that is sadly under-recognized as well as under-appreciated. "Dancing in September" is filled with hidden meanings, subliminal messages, and out-right confrontations of multiple issues our society refuses to face today. This is a film that will make you think, something the television and movie-making industry lacks now-a-days, and something that more movies need."