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Premium Reviews

Writer-director Pete Chatmon's comedy about the personal and professional tribulations of a struggling African-American actor deals with many of the same issues broached in Robert Townshend's angry, ultra-low budget comedy HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE (1987). But strong performaces and Chatmon's low-key sense of humor give the film an engaging charm. New Jersey-based Reggie Coolidge (Dorian Missick), who prefers to be called "Cool," is having an exceptionally bad day. His gas-station job (barely) pays the bills -- he can't even afford a car -- and his so-called career is seriously stalled. All he ever gets to audition for is roles as pimps, drug dealers and gangbangers, and he's just been ejected from a casting call because he freaked out on the callow Spike-Lee wannabe wanted him to be, you know, blacker. Reggie's expenses are about to increase in a big way: He's been living at home with his mom (Tonya Pinkins) and her boyfriend, Phil (Frankie Faison), who's also his boss, but they're moving. And Phil is getting pretty fed up with Reggie always cutting out to got to audions in Manhattan. To cap it all off, he runs into his childhood friend and former fiancee, Charli (Zoe Saldana), who's back in town to marry successful buppie Ed Marshall (Hill Harper). Chatmon hews close to genre conventions, but focuses more on character than the increasingly improbable complications and stupid misunderstandings -- the kind that would take one reasonable conversation to dispel -- that dominate Hollywood romantic comedies.