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Reese (Sanaa Lathan) and Dre (Taye Diggs) have been best friends since rap music brought them together as 10 year-olds in 1984. After a long stint as a journalist on the Los Angeles Times, Reese moves back to New York to become the editor of a prominent music magazine. Her reunion with Dre, who is now a producer at the mainstream hip-hop label Millennium Records, ignites long-suppressed passions. Unable to admit their true love for each other, Dre marries lawyer Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) and Sidney embarks on a romance with pro basketballer Kelby Dawson (Boris Kodjoe). As cracks appear in both relationships, Sidney and Dre are forced to confront the truth and open their hearts to each other and their partners. 

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Brown Sugar is a romantic drama worth discovering. The selling point is a hop-hop soundtrack and appearances by many of the musical genre's leading lights but that description barely scratches the surface of this richly textured character study. The conscience of the narrative is provided by voice-over passages from the book Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) is writing about her love affair with hip-hop, or rap music as it was called when she was a 10-year-old kid in 1984. 

More than any film I've seen based around the topic, Brown Sugar taps into the reasons why this music speaks to and reflects contemporary African-American culture. Sidney's narration and a terrific opening montage of interview grabs from legendary performers including De La Soul gives uninitiated audiences an immediate entry point into emotional and musical territory we're about to explore. 

Every thought and action taken by Sidney relates directly to her passion for the music. This connection gives the drama a strong and involving core from which it also explores the business of a musical style that started on the streets in pure form before being subjected to the inevitable commercialisation and loss of direction once corporate players moved in. 

Brown Sugar has been made with unusual care for all its characters, particularly the sacrificial lambs who must be discarded so that Sidney and Dre might be united. In a film with less integity, Dre's wife Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) and Sidney's fiancée Kelby (Boris Kodjoe) might have been written as patently awful characters with no other purpose than to drive Sidney and Dre together. Here, they are much more complex and don't just disappear from the scene once their traditional functions have been fulfilled. 

The dialogue between Dre/Reese and Sidney/Kelby is mature and unusually effective in its depiction of what happens in real life when two people gradually realise perhaps they're not made for each other after all. It's obvious even to passers by that Sidney and Dre are perfect together and for most of its 109 minutes Brown Sugar does an admirable job of finding good reasons to keep them apart. Wiith excellent performances by the leads and splendid support by Queen Latifah as Sidney's best buddy Francine and Mos Def as a hip-hop artist Dre is hoping to sign, Brown Sugar is an unexpectedly rewarding experience and suffers only from a few too many endings. 

Published March 4, 2004

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CAST: Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Mos Def, Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Queen Latifah, Wendell Pierce, Erik Weiner, Reggi Wyns

SCRIPT: Michael Elliot

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 4, 2004

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