Something New

dir. Sanaa Hamri

High-powered banker, dog-hater, and former debutante Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) is, like all pretty, successful romantic comedy leads, unlucky in love. Spending Valentine’s evening with her girlfriends—in a by-the-book Sex and the City roundtable—she decides it’s time to loosen up a bit and agrees to a blind date with Brian (Simon Baker), an earthy, dog-loving gardener. But uh oh! He’s not exactly what she expected. Cue gigantic wink.

In fact, Brian is a pale-skinned, blonde-haired, white, whitey, whitey-pants! Kenya, a member of what she calls “black high society,” is having none of it. And she’s a huge jerk and they part ways and then she hires him to landscape her yard and they eat take-out and she pats his dog and takes out her weave and you know the rest.

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Despite a near-constant barrage of clunky symbolism (she lives in a sterile, beige world until Brian paints her walls and her toenails) and the most formulaic of plots, Something New is actually pretty enjoyable. It addresses issues of race with a more nuanced and less goofy hand than most films of its ilk (not saying much, but still): Kenya’s friends’ requisite game of Make-the-White-Guy-Uncomfortable feels authentic, not campy, and Kenya and Brian’s climactic fight in the supermarket (Brian just wants “a night off” from talking about race) deftly skirts melodrama.

Lathan is cute and classy, and I can always use more Donald Faison (as Kenya’s womanizin’ brother Nelson) in my life. But the best reason to sit through Something New is this: Simon Baker is the most attractive person on planet earth. He’s like a magical creature made of twinkly eyes and curling golden locks and burly arms doing hot, hot manual labor. He’ll change your life.