The Best Man

USA 1999

Reviewed by Kay Dickinson


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

US, the present. Harper, a successful novelist, is about to publish a semi-autobiographical account of his student years. Leaving girlfriend Robin at home, he joins friends whom he met at university in New York for a weekend reunion which is to culminate with the wedding of Mia and Lance (for whom he is best man). Harper discovers Jordan, a television producer whom he nearly slept with at college, has circulated his book among their friends.

It becomes clear that the novel describes a sexual encounter between characters similar to Harper and Mia. During the stag night, Lance realises this, attacks Harper and declares the wedding cancelled. Harper retreats to Jordan's house. They argue and he sleeps on the sofa. Oblivious to all this, Mia and guests gather at the church the next day and await Lance's arrival. Harper convinces Lance to go through with the wedding; he then decides that he and Jordan are unsuited and proposes to Robin.


With The Best Man debut director Malcolm Lee shows recognisable links with the work of his film-making colleague and cousin Spike (acting, in this instance, as c0-producer). But while this new-Lee-on-the-block shares Spike's political approach to film-making in his insistence on interrogating Hollywood's gallery of African-American stereotypes, his film lacks his relative's comedic irreverence.

Set during a weekend reunion for friends who met at college, The Best Man is let down by Lee's well-intended attempt to fill the film with positive African-American role models. The movie's world of yuppie characters, rose-petal baths and constant references to university does at least mark a shift from US cinema's tendency to associate African-American culture with inner-city violence and deprivation. The trouble with The Best Man, however, is that its eager-to-please tone is almost as predictable and limiting as the ghetto haunts of, say, Juice and Menace II Society. In his earnestness Lee forgets that we need engagingly defective objects of mockery for comedy to work and instead falls back on characters who exhibit no demeaning flaws. Most perplexingly there's a lack of logic about the proposed respectability of the main character Harper, a novelist who very publicly dishes the dirt on his friends via a book that is due for heavy promotion on Oprah Winfrey's television show.

With political tip-toeing so high on The Best Man's agenda it becomes difficult to stop oneself from asking why Jordan, the film's ambitious career girl, is left resigned to a single life at the end of the movie, while Robin, the lackadaisical caterer who wants babies, wins the marriage proposal from the leading man. Stereotypes from beyond the domain of racial identity rear their heads after all, notably Murch, the henpecked boyfriend who ditches his nit-picking paramour for a tart-with-a-heart. While harmless enough, these buffoons make us aware of the main characters' lack of comic bite.

Thankfully, the film's double bind - relying on caricatures to raise a laugh, but not wanting to denigrate any African Americans in the process - is eluded by pleasingly acerbic dialogue. An early boys-only poker game zips through the conversational gamut of infidelity with jagged comments ricocheting across the card table until the scene cuts off on an ambiguous note with two of the friends nearly coming to blows. Their motives are left unresolved and such curious, unexplained currents, along with regular comic relief in the form of genuinely sharp one-liners, make for some lively moments. But the film's overarching problem remains that the yuppie lifestyle, regardless of colour, is hardly the stuff of riveting entertainment.


Malcolm D. Lee
Spike Lee
Sam Kitt
Bill Carraro
Malcolm D. Lee
Director of Photography
Frank Prinzi
Cara Silverman
Production Designer
Kalina Ivanov
Stanley Clarke
©Universal Studios
Production Company
Universal Pictures presents a 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks production
40 Acres Development Executives
Andre Hereford
Ross Martin
Production Co-ordinator
Alexis Arnold
Unit Production Manager
Debra Jeffreys
Location Manager
Kenneth L. Halsband
Location Supervisor
Gine Lui
Post-production Supervisor
Pamela Reis
Monica D. Barraza
Assistant Directors
H.H. Cooper
Dale Nielson
Laurie Jackson
Michael A. Pinckney
Script Supervisor
Shari Carpenter
Robi Reed-Humes
Yolanda D. Hunt
New York:
Jeff Block
Sondra James
Camera Operators
Jon Herron
Carl Prinzi
Steadicam Operator
Jerry Holway
Art Director
Wing Lee
Set Decorators
Christina K. Tonkin
Paul Weathered
Costume Designer
Danielle Hollowell
Wardrobe Supervisors
Jordanna Fineberg
Careen Fowles
Key Make-up Artist
Toy Russell-Van Lierop
Key Hair Stylists
Ellin La Var
Quentin Harris
Titles Design/Production
Balsmeyer & Everett, Inc
The Effects House
Jazz Musicians
Lenny White
Stanley Clarke
Rachel Z
Ritche Kotzen
Cliff Lee
Stanley Clarke
Ira Hearshen
Music Supervisors
Bonnie Greenberg
Lisa Brown
Music Editor
E. Gedney Webb
Orchestra Recording
Tim Boyle
Additional Music Recording/Mixing
Steve Miller
"What You Want" - The Roots featuring Jaguar; "Your Lights Down Low" - Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley; "As" - Stevie Wonder; "Take It" - Terence Howard; "Untitled" - Me'Shell N'degéocello; "Beautiful Girl" - Kenny Lattimore; "Treat 'Em Right" - Chubb Rock; "As My Girl", "Let's Not Play the Game" - Maxwell; "Poetry Girl" - Eric Benét; "You Can't See What I Can See" - Heavy D & The Boyz; "The Best Man" - Faith Evans; "Bug A Boo" - Destiny's Child; "Wall to Wall" - Ruff Life; "Candy" - Cameo; "Beauty (remix)" - Dru Hill, Case; "The Hotness" - Sean Lee; "Shit, Damn, Motherfucka" - D'Angelo; "When the Shades Go Down" - Allure; "After All Is Said and Done" - Beyoncé and Marc Nelson; "Letter to Chris" - Consuela Lee, Al Harewood, Billy Johnson; "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" - Mint Condition; "Wedding Bells" - Cliff Lee, Consuela Lee, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White; "The Best Man Quartet" - Case, Tyrese, Ginuwine, RL
Michelle Robinson
Sound Mixer
Bill Daly
Re-recording Mixer
Peter Waggoner
Supervising Sound Editor
Paul Urmson
Dialogue Editors
Mary Ellen Porto
Jac Rubenstein
Additional Voices
Greg Baglia
Rafael Cabrera
Oscar Dela Fé Colón
Patricia Floyd
Eileen Galindo
Bruce Hawkins
Mark Anthony Henry
Larry Stephen Hines
Kent Jackman
Joie Lee
Robin Dana Miles
Dominic Marcus
Janice G. Pendarvis
Jonathan E. Peck
Gary Perez
Mark Schulte
David White
ADR Editors
Lisa J. Levine
Gina Alfano
Tim O'Shea
Jay Peck
Matt Haasch
Stunt Co-ordinator
David Lomax
Taye Diggs
Nia Long
Morris Chestnut
Harold Perrineau Jr
Terrence Howard
Sanaa Lathan
Monica Calhoun
Melissa De Sousa
Victoria Dillard
Regina Hall
Jim Moody
Uncle Skeeter
Jarrod Bunch
Stu 'Large' Riley
Liris Crosse
Lady Madonna
Linda Powell
wedding co-ordinator
Willie Carpenter
Malcolm D. Lee
Doug Banks
DeDe McGuire
Renton Kirk
Patrick Malcolm
Nikki Tillman
Lena Moore
Rebecca Brody
Gena Lue Sang
Linda Murrell
Willie Gaskins
Lance's parents
Emilie Gaskins
Don Clark Williams
Mia's parents
Charltina 'Chasha' Banks
Aleisha Allen
flower girls
Vance Allen
broom bearer
United International Pictures (UK) Ltd
10,827 feet
120 minutes 18 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011