Movie Review – Mo’ Better Blues (1990)

Director: Spike Lee

Stars: Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Spike Lee, Giancarlo Esposito, Robin Harris, Joie Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Cynda Williams, Samuel L. Jackson

Bleek (Washington) is a jazz musician whose sole love is music. He juggles two women; Indigo (Lee) and Clarke (Williams) while trying to hold the egos of his band together, as well as battling with his manager (Lee) and the owner of the club (Turturro) to get more money. Playing the trumpet is such a simple joy yet all the other complications of his life threaten to get in the way of his innocent love.

The tone of Mo’ Better Blues is cool. The jazz-infused style pours through the screen and it has a very mellow, chilled out vibe. There’s a lot of jazz music so obviously if you don’t like jazz then this movie probably isn’t for you. The first hour or so meanders along and not much happens, and it’s only the magnetism of Washington and Snipes that kept me interested but eventually the action kicks in and Bleek’s world unravels.

There are some inventive shots throughout the film, one scene I particularly liked was when Bleek is making love and getting confused between the two women. It was a good way to depict the state of his mind. I feel like the characters could have been developed more though. We only really got to know Bleek, Clarke and Shadow (Snipes), and given that Bleek was torn between two women I think we should have seen more of the other one. I would also have liked to have seen a little more about the other band members. I could have done less with Clarke singing though. Even though it was only one song it was still really bad. Considering she kept pestering Bleek to be a singer I think it was a misstep to not have the actress dubbed.

One thing I really didn’t like is the end. I thought it was trite the way it went full circle and at best I would have preferred it had it been a product of Bleek’s fantasies. In an ideal world it would have ended with Bleek walking away in the rain, as that would have been a more fitting, bleak (pun intended) ending.

However, I did enjoy it. I liked the music and the cinematography and the overall tone of the film. Washington is always a magnetic presence on screen and he and Snipes give the film that extra boost that make it worth watching.

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