How Stella Got Her Groove Back review

Never mind groove: - this is more like two records playing at the same time. One is a funky love song, the other a tragic aria about terminal illness, and the two tunes just don't go together. What you're treated to instead is a total mishmash. Sure, the acting's good and American audiences liked it enough to make it a number one hit, but this could have been so much better.

Women over the age of about 25 with a normal bust size have a hard time finding work in Hollywood, so you can't blame the formidable Bassett for taking on a role that's way beneath her talents. Besides, she probably thought the story (adapted by Terry McMillan from her own book) had something significant to say about the plight of African-American women in both the workplace and the bedroom. But if the script had any bite, it's been glossed over by Kevin Rodney Sullivan's TV movie-style direction.

In fact, this has TV movie corniness stamped all over it. The build-up to Bassett's first bonk with muscle mountain Diggs is all hot and sweaty; a mating-ritual dance that promises steamy sex. Instead, the film cuts to that crappest of clichés, pretty white curtains billowing in the sea breeze. Small mercy then that the next shot isn't of foaming waves crashing on rocks.

Cheesiness isn't the film's worst crime though; that goes to introducing Bassett's best friend (Goldberg) who pushes her into a life-changing romance before predictably dropping dead in life-affirming fashion. At least Whoopi initially plays her man-eating part with comic spark, but is powerless in the face of the later turgid scenes of graceful suffering.

Goldberg's lucky and bails out before the end. But Bassett is in it right up to the last, terrible scene in which the fate of her relationship hangs in the balance and the audience is supposed to be on the edge of their seats. More likely they'll be on the edge of a very deep sleep.

Part love story, part weepy, this tries to do two things and fails at both. Bassett's a fine actress and Goldberg is as funny as ever, but aside from some promising early scenes, this ploddingly paced and dull film wastes their talents.

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