"Black Nativity" the staged musical written by Langston Hughes, was first performed Off-Broadway on December 11, 1961. It's a stylized, gospel retelling of the Biblical Jesus, Mary & Joseph Christmas story told with a dark skinned cast. Now writer/director Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Talk to Me) has put her own spin on the tale for her new movie Black Nativity starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese Gibson and Jacob Latimore as the playwright's name sake.
The movie begins with Langston (Latimore) and some friends b-bopp'n, hip hop'n around the neighborhood, the scene mirroring a low tech music video for a new artist. He comes home to find his mother (Hudson) with a worried look on her face, looks down on the table, sees an eviction notice. Next he's being told he'll have to spend Christmas with his grandparents in Harlem, who he's never met. I would have preferred this whole set up be scratched. The movie should have begun with Langston on the bus on his way to NY which features the Negro spiritual “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child”. And the reasons for his being shipped off to meet his grandparents (Whitaker/Bassett) could be revealed as the story unfolds. Not only would this have been less of a stock setup, but also it would be less Jennifer Hudson acting. She's really un-good! I think her role as Effie White and subsequent Oscar was a fluke. Either that, or the pressure to live up to that part and coveted statue has made her too aware of herself as an actress; now she's like Beyonce, kinda wooden, she feels like a singer making a cameo rather than an actress with the talent to sing. READ MORE
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