With a multi-talented cast of celebrities like Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese and Mary J. Blige, Black Nativity’s script is brought to life through enjoyable musical numbers interlaced with each scene of the movie. Kasi Lemmons, who has written and acted in various works, directed her adaptation of Langston Hugh’s 1962 original piece, Black Nativity. The seasonally appropriate, Fox Searchlight musical hit the box office last Wednesday and its Monday night pre-screening in Toronto earned a full theatre of laughter at times, delivering a coming of age story mixed with a message of holiday inspiration.
The story’s centerpiece, teenager Langston, played by artist/actor Jacob Latimore, journeys from Baltimore to New York for the holidays, reluctant to spend time with his grandparents Reverend Cornell, played by Forest Whitaker, and Aretha Cobbs, played by Angela Bassett. Yearning to go back home to his mother, Naima, played by Jennifer Hudson; Langston entertains the audience with believable acting and musical expositions throughout the film. Progressing through the family’s tribulations, the story is equal parts believable and easy to predict.
Oscar-winner Hudson captivated raw emotion through her musical renditions. Although the woman can sing, and performs as such, it did not hinder her ability to convey a believable single mother, reinforcing her ability to act. Tyrese displays his versatility in comparison to his roles in the Fast and Furious series, or Transformers, with wit, maturity and charm.
As he embodies the role of Reverend Cobbs, Whitaker displays a soft, but stern fathering character, inspiring honesty, forgiveness and Langston’s discovery of self. With a shockingly white hair-do, Mary J. Blige’s character appearance as an angelic figure in the community was not lengthy, but surely memorable.
The movie’s cinematography demonstrated a variety of techniques, successfully delivering the journey with some footage of city lights or landscape, to close up conversations between the cast members. Scenes of emotional exchanges were generally accompanied by a musical performance. A series of music video like sequences and heart grabbing moments of weakness and love were well edited with captivating shot angles, drawing in the viewers.
With thousands of trailer views Facebook likes in a day, and the audience’s laughter and applause during the screening, Black Nativity is sure to reach viewers with an inspirational story for this holiday season.
Words By. Dinusha Wijemanne