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Hav Plenty

Review: Not enough to 'Hav Plenty'

Web posted on: Wednesday, June 24, 1998 4:32:02 PM

From Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- It honestly pains me to criticize a young black filmmaker who heroically managed to write and direct his first feature without having to pucker up to a major studio's behemoth behind, but it's my job to review what's on the screen, not hand out certificates for gumption. So I'm required to do the dirty work and say that Christopher Scott Cherot's "Hav Plenty" is sometimes less than embarrassing, but is more consistently less than good.

The movie is not without its very dinky charms, I suppose. If you're exceedingly forgiving, you might enjoy its mildly amusing rambling. But, boy, is a lot of it awkward.

The setup isn't very complicated, although judging from the amount of brains displayed in the writing -- even when the lines aren't all that funny -- this is probably because Cherot knows that small budgets require hemmed-in locations. Cherot himself stars as Lee Plenty, an unemployed writer whose lackadaisical approach to life finds him homeless as the film begins, house-sitting in New York for his friend, Havilland (Chenoa Maxwell).

Taking pity on Lee, Havilland invites him to her mother's luxurious Washington, D.C. home for a New Year's Eve party which is also to be attended by a couple of her D.C. friends and her sister. Lee drives on down, not expecting much, but eventually winds up getting more than he could have imagined.

Clip: "Cheese"
1.8Mb QuickTime movie

Entire theatrical trailer
4.3Mb QuickTime movie

Script lacks momentum

Or so you're supposed to think. Cherot can cut a scene together decently, but his writing lacks anything resembling momentum, and his cast is weak in the extreme. Perhaps the most glaringly unpolished performance is given by Maxwell, who has no qualms about pausing at inopportune moments in the middle of a monologue to catch her breath. But Cherot, though charismatic in an extremely low-voltage way at times, seems to think that he's the cat's meow. It didn't surprise me, then, that that inexhaustible "charisma" is exactly what the movie winds up being about.

You see, Lee has a thing for Havilland, but she's going out with a big R&B star (played by Hill Harper.) So -- at first, anyway -- Lee has to contend with being chased by Havilland's snooty friend (Tammi Katherine Jones, the most competent member of the cast). The story is comprised of scenes that seldom seem to be actual scene-scenes. The overriding vibe is that everything you're watching is transitional, almost not worth your attention.

Very little (if anything) is at stake most of the time. Even Lee's purported passion for Havilland doesn't rev up the story, because the character is endlessly presented as a laid-back doof. He doesn't have a home or a job, and has given up really pursuing women, so anything that's going to happen to him is bound to just fall into his lap sooner or later.

No reason to root

We're supposed to be rooting for him to find happiness with one of the women in the story, but his lack of ambition finally had me thinking he didn't really deserve it. At the very least, he certainly doesn't deserve the fluttering eyelashes that he manages to receive from every other woman who crosses his path.

The movie just lays there. Yet I strongly suspect that you can chalk up another one for the indie filmmaker who's on his way to Hollywood riches. It wouldn't be the first time that a minorly competent director ended up scaling the wall into the big time because his less-than-difficult sensibilities seem more readily marketable than that guy who made the unquestionably brilliant movie about the gay misanthrope with the twitch and the acid wit (or whatever). I really do congratulate Cherot on making this movie. I just hope that he can dredge up something a little more provocative as he gains more exposure.

"Hav Plenty" is relatively tame, all things considered. There are sexual situations, and some bad language. It's just too bland for its own good. Rated R. 92 minutes.

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