So I watched How Stella Got Her Groove Back…
Believe it or not, I have never watched this movie before. Even more shocking when you consider how religiously it was aired on TV when I was growing up. Having seen it now, I really must admit that I clearly wasn’t missing out on much.
Okay, basic plot: Stella Payne (Angela Bassett) is a successful, hardworking stockbroker who decides to take a well-earned vacation to Jamaica with her best friend, Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg). Usually a responsible, level-headed person, Stella decides to let her hair loose and engage in an island fling with local hunk, Winston (Taye Diggs) – who is twenty years her junior. While initially fun, their relationship takes strain when Stella returns to her regular life and Winston decides to join her.
This film has to have one of the most misleading titles in the history of cinema. If you name your movie, “How Stella Got Her Groove Back“, the expectation is that Stella first has to lose her ‘groove’ and then has to embark on an adventure to regain it. Unfortunately, Stella seems to be living her best life for most of the movie – she has a successful career, bags of money, a mansion with its very own grotto, good friends, a loving son and the looks and grace of an age-less Angela Bassett. So where’s the hardship? The only issue you might say Stella has is that she’s single BUT from what the movie shows you, she’s happy in her solitude. The only people troubled by her lack of a partner are her sisters. Now since Stella never loses her groove, why is there a movie about her getting it back?
There are some moments in the middle of this film where our main character does face some challenges that have the potential to make her lose said groove but she moves on from them so quickly that they amount to nothing more than brief inconveniences. The structure of this film makes no sense. These challenges should have been presented in the beginning of the movie and should have formed the driving force for why Stella gets thrown off her game and needs to re-centre. This disjointed approach robs the film of any tension and satisfaction because it turns this film from a reflective look into the need for escape and relaxation to tackle life’s problems into a two hour summary of some rich lady’s vacation.
I was disappointed with this film’s plot but the one thing I did enjoy was the performance of its two leads – Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. Their hands are tied by a nonsensical script that has no idea the story its meant to tell but they commit to it and deliver entertaining performances. Bassett is such a presence and really has to be one of the most underrated actors of her generation. This was Taye Diggs’ film debut but his performance feels experienced and full of the charm and swagger that would be the hallmark of his career. His Jamaican ‘accent’ was a little inconsistent and more than a little unbelievable but his portrayal of Winston was charming and sincere.
Overall, How Stella Got Her Groove Back is not an enjoyable movie. It’s too long, doesn’t really make sense and doesn’t live up to the promise of its title. With the exception of entertaining performances from Bassett and Diggs in its lead, there isn’t much to enjoy from this film. 4/10