Nappily Ever After (2018)

I know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover —a movie in this case— but that's the reason I watched Nappily Ever After, the pretty poster. When I saw it was directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, who directed the wonderful Wadjda back in 2012, my expectations for this went through the roof. 

Based on Trisha R. Thomas’s novel of the same name, the film follows Violet Jones (Sanaa Lathan), a young African American woman who has everything she thought she’d want and need —a successful career, friends and a handsome boyfriend, Clint (Ricky Whittle), who is going to propose on her birthday. However, Clint does not propose —he buys her a dog instead—, they have an argument, Clint tells her that he can’t commit to a girl he barely knows because she never lets herself go and they break up. She gets drunk and shaves her head off and embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-love.

Plot-wise, Nappily Ever After is pretty simple and predictable, and the whole subplot with Violet’s father wanting to become a male model and achieve his dream doesn’t really need to be in here —it only shows what a control freak Violet’s mother is, but we already know that. In other words, it isn’t nearly as good as Wadjda’s. However, as flawed as it is, it still is an engaging story about women, and it’s worth watching because of the powerful message it delivers as it teaches to love yourself for who you really are, but most important, it critics societal standards of what beauty is —you don’t need straight hair to be beautiful, nor fancy clothes or tons of makeup, you just need to be who you are and own it.

The character of Violet is very relatable —no matter what colour your skin is, as long as you’re a woman, you can relate to her. One you root for —and that is so likeable, I often found myself hoping that she wouldn’t make some dumb decisions. And Sanaa Lathan sure deserves most of the credits for it as she plays the character very well. Also, she actually shaved her head while filming this and I don’t think there’s a better way to teach young women to be comfortable in your own skin.

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The same cannot be said for the supporting characters though. While Violet’s mother strikes as the overbearing woman who wants to have control over every little thing in life as Lynn Whitfield gives a good performance and makes the character almost likeable, the other characters couldn’t be any blander. Violet’s friends are generic at best —I can’t even remember their names— and her love interests are bland and boring. Zoe, a young girl Violet befriends, is the only one that stands out, and its thanks to Daria Johns’s sweetness.

The comedy is another problem with Nappily Ever After. My guess is that al-Mansour doesn’t have a lot of experience with it and because of it, most of the comedic moments fall flat. There are some funny moments, but not as much as there should have been.

Ultimately, this isn’t as good as Wadjda, but it’s still worth the time, especially if you are looking for a light romantic comedy that has a nice, empowering message. 

6 comments :

  1. I love Wadjda and Sanaa Lathan, I think I'll give this a watch. I remember vaguely hearing about it before.

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    1. It's enjoyable but it could have been so much more.

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  2. I may like it just a hair more than you, but overall we're pretty close on this one. Not great, but certainly worth a watch. I still need to see Wadjda. A hair. I slay me.

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  3. I haven’t heard of it but not sure I will. Good review though

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