During an Academy Awards season when we're pestered to pretend we admire liberal fantasies like "Brokeback Mountain" (in which he-man Heath Ledger plays the straightest gay ever), it's refreshing that the unheralded "Something New" honestly explores a genuine social issue -- the dire marital prospects of the upper middle class black woman -- with insight and no political axes to grind.
"Something New" is burdened with perhaps the most forgettable title since the straight-to-landfill 1979 Joe Mantegna film "To Be Announced," yet it proves one of the more acutely observed romantic comedies of recent years. It's not exceptionally funny, but as a lively social study, "Something New" is a small but worthy addition to the genre pioneered by Jane Austen.
Kenya McQueen (played by Sanaa Lathan) is an offspring of the traditional black high bourgeoisie, that reclusive and starchy class from which Condoleezza Rice emerged. Armed with a Stanford degree and a Wharton MBA, she's up for partner at a Big 4 accounting firm, and has just bought a house in Baldwin Hills, the black Beverly Hills. All she's missing is a backyard garden to relax in during her few hours away from the office … and a boyfriend. Like so many affluent black women today, she can't find a black man of comparable status...
The script by Kriss Turner, a black woman who writes for Chris Rock's sitcom, is also admirable for how it handles the career subplot. Making partner depends upon how well she handles a major client's CEO, who is paying for a pro forma "due diligence" analysis of an acquisition he passionately wants to make. Most movies would concoct a bogus "social conscience" plot twist for the heroine to wrestle with, such as her shocking discovery that the target firm clubs baby seals. Instead, "Something New" offers a realistic problem, the kind of test of personal integrity that happens far more often in business: Kenya unearths evidence that the target firm would be a disastrous investment, but that's the last thing her client wants to hear.
This film won't be around much longer in the theatres -- not surprisingly, it hasn't found much of an audience -- so you might want to see it while you can.