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WOOD, THE

SYNOPSIS:
'The Wood' is Englewood, a middle-class black neighbourhood where Roland (Taye Diggs), who's about to get married, is having second thoughts – he doesn't want to spend his life wondering 'what if' he married the wrong girl. When Roland disappears three hours before the ceremony, his two best friends since junior high, Mike (Omar Epps) and Slim (Richard T. Jones) set out to find him. On the way they travel through some of their old neighbourhood haunts and reminisce about the time they spent together in high school, growing up, chasing girls, and learning about life.

"Gary Famayuki’s autobiographical first feature is a commercial product that also feels quite ‘real’ – zooming in on pop culture in a particular time and place (‘80s hip-hop music and fashion) and showing it without fuss as part of the characters’ lives. In outline, the film’s take on growing up, falling in love and getting laid (in whatever order) is predictable enough. Boys are boastful, confused and driven by their hormones; girls are smart, desirable, and always one step ahead of the guys. This is standard movie wisdom, whether we're looking at black teenagers in ‘80s Los Angeles, white teenagers in contemporary Middle America, or, for that matter, Arab teenagers in war-ravaged ‘70s Beirut. (Zhad Doueiri’s teen movie West Beyrouth, which played at the Melbourne Film Festival and will probably show up some day on SBS, is similar in its easygoing humour and the way the horny, swaggering heroes riff off each other.) Famayuki’s actor-centred style is simple but confident, carefully integrating music and maintaining a nice balance between crowd-pleasing jokes and naturalistic observation. An added perspective is offered by some less engaging present-day scenes where the characters, now in their mid-twenties, continue to struggle towards maturity. Though interesting in principle, this flashback structure often seems awkwardly jumpy, as if Famayuki has a whole novel’s worth of experience to squeeze into an hour and a half. But while the film threatens to break down into a scattered series of vignettes, the willingness to give a bit more time and emotional shape to individual scenes pays off in many moving and funny moments, including one of the most tender yet realistic sex scenes in any film for a while."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

THE WOOD (MA)
(US)

CAST: Omar Epps, Sean Nelson, Taye Diggs, Trent Cameron, Richard T. Jones, Duane Finley, Malinda Williams

DIRECTOR: Rick Famuyiwa

PRODUCER: Albert Berger, David Gale

SCRIPT: Rick Famuyiwa, Todd Boyd

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steven Bernstein

EDITOR: John Carter

MUSIC: Robert Hurst

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Roger G. Fortune, Maxine Shepard

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 18, 1999, Sydney & Melbourne; others to follow







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