Tag Archives: Sanaa Lathan

Love & Basketball — The Criterion Edition

The Criterion Edition of Love & Basketball (Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2000) came out last year, and though I’ve had the DVD within spitting distance for a few months, I didn’t really feel like watching it until tonight.


I really liked this film the first time I watched it and I like it just as much now.  My previous analysis still holds and for this viewing, I have a few additional musings:

~ I forgot Alfre Woodard plays Sanaa Lathan‘s mom.
~ Monica (Lathan) and Quincy’s (Omar Epps) friendship is borne out of humility, friendly competition, and strong opinions.
~ Sanaa Lathan is so good.  She’s incredible at conveying discomfort around others and self-disappointment.
~ The film delves into many layers and does so very well: dynamics between friends, parents and kids, dealing with insecurity, and rivalry.
~ Why would Quincy treat Monica that way?  Is it because he’s afraid to let her down where it truly matters so he’d rather she hated him for being a jerk or short-sighted than for anything resembling vulnerability?  Or did he perceive her priority, her reasonable priority of basketball over him as abandonment?  He wouldn’t walk her back to her dorm, is he justified in being so upset (or could they both have come up with a better solution in the moment)?
~ I completely forgot Tyra Banks was in this movie.
~ I don’t remember getting teary-eyed in that scene in the kitchen between Monica and her mom…the one where they talk about basketball and the spring dance.
~ Would a person who doesn’t like sports movies or basketball enjoy the non-sports components of Love & Basketball?  I doubt it.  Although the film deftly explores Monica and Quincy as people, but mostly Monica, basketball is so integral to the themes and storyline that if you actively dislike the depiction of game-play or conversations about being an athlete, then maybe you could still have a good time if you’re die-hard fans of Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps, or want to watch a movie directed by a woman and in which there are zero cell phones.

What I learned from the making-of featurette:
~ The director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, was a shy child but playing basketball gave her an outlet to be more confident.  Her parents encouraged her and her sister to play sports.  She also always liked writing and telling stories; becoming a filmmaker made sense.
~ The Sundance Labs liked the script for the film and then invited Gina to do the director’s lab.
~ Sanaa Lathan did not give the director the best first impression…but nailed it in the reading to a full audience.  Apparently, people with theatre training do a “reading” for more mechanical reasons, unlike someone with a film/TV background who would put much more heart into it.  Hence, the initial not-great impression.
~ Omar Epps had played athletic characters four times before Love & Basketball, so he was apprehensive about being in this film at first, but he loved the script.
~ The director wanted to cast a ball-player who could act but kept Sanaa “on hold” because her auditions were so good.  She was given a trainer to help her become a basketball player in more than athletic abilities.  Colleen Matsuhara was the basketball advisor.  It took about four or five months of Gina trying to finalize casting before Sanaa got the part.  She realized that her movie was about love first and then basketball second.  After all, “you can fake a jump shot, you can’t fake a close-up.”
~ The WNBA did not exist when the director started writing the film.  By the time she was in production, there was a WNBA.

If you like this movie and haven’t gotten your hands on the Criterion version, do it, and watch all the special features.

How did I not pay attention to the music in this movie before?  Je ne sais pas.

Pic creds: Criterion Collection