How U Like Me Now

Though HOW U LIKE ME NOW--which explores the frustrated lives of four young black men and is particularly strong on character--is a welcome antidote to Spike Lee's more portentous examinations of Afro-American relationships, it's also heavy on digression, and overly dependent on dialogue. The work of an unseasoned but promising filmmaker--who also acts...read more

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Though HOW U LIKE ME NOW--which explores the frustrated lives of four young black men and is particularly strong on character--is a welcome antidote to Spike Lee's more portentous examinations of Afro-American relationships, it's also heavy on digression, and overly dependent on dialogue.

The work of an unseasoned but promising filmmaker--who also acts in the film--this breezy comedy's raw energy lets it coast past its downtime.

As HOW U LIKE ME NOW launches into its battle of the sexes, the men already feel an armed truce with women is the best for which they can hope. The film concerns itself foremost with the troubled love of yuppie Valerie (Salli Richardson) and her blue-collar boyfriend Thomas (Darnell Williams),

whose work ethic batteries are in need of recharging. Tired of being taken for granted, material girl Valerie steps out with a white dude, Brandon (Scott Goodrich), who satisfies her romantically but can't understand the Black Experience. Shocked out of complacency by Valerie's departure, Thomas

slowly gets his act together and saves his endangered job.

Meanwhile, B.J. (Daryl Roberts) dreams of a soulful sister committed to political causes and complains about white wannabes, while running an Afro-boutique his community fails to frequent. Smooth businessman Alex (Raymond Whitfield) assimilates white culture while sampling girls of both races,

and uncouth Spoony (Daniel Gardner) obsesses about luring luscious Afro-American women to his crib. Neighborhood good-time girl Sharon (Jonelle Kennedy) reveals to Spoony that Alex is a blowhard who owes everybody money. Turning his back on America, B.J. leaves a hurt Spoony behind and heads for

Ghana. When Valerie decides to give Thomas one more chance, she's shocked to discover that not only does the once-lazy Thomas have job security, he also has a new girlfriend, his supervisor Michele (Debra Crable).

Refreshingly off-the-cuff, HOW U LIKE ME NOW shuttles engagingly back and forth among its four central characters. If the movie never attains the stature of an Afro-American DINER, it's because the fledgling writer/director repeats himself, fails to vary camera set-ups during long dialogue

sequences, and doesn't fully integrate the four intertwined tales. Because the film is anecdotal in nature, audiences will probably enjoy it only if they are willing to relax, sit out the dull stretches, and allow the protagonists to rap at leisure. Some of the comedy bits are side-splittingly

funny, notably when Sharon dismisses dating candidates as lowlifes, before each man addresses the camera and reveals his good intentions; the one well-dressed brother who met Sharon's approval sidles up to her and snatches her gold chain. As an invitation to future male-female discussion, HOW U

LIKE ME NOW can be commended for providing a lot of psychological food for thought even if the deck is stacked in favor of the men. With its humorous asides and poignant moments, it addresses both the fragility of relationships and the issue of responsibility in the business arena with candor and

heart. Structurally, the writing needed tightening and visually, the film needed variety, but it creates four vivid male protagonists and allows some wonderful Afro-American actresses to shine in major and minor roles.

The film's major flaw is the sexism of the filmmaker, who seems to blame successful, ambitious black women for every psychological and economic problem his male quartet endures. The ironic ending defies easy moralizing. It is Valerie's departure that forces Thomas to rethink his life;

nevertheless, she is punished for failing to stand by her man, and ends up alone. The rap song that ends the film unfairly blames her for not having had the fortitude to stick out a no-win situation with Thomas. (Nudity, extensive profanity, sexual situations.)

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