Nov 4, 2014

Review: LUV (2012)

For the most part, Sheldon Candis only really has experience making short films. LUV is pretty much his first big break, especially given the fact that he's working with established actors like Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Haysbert and of course Common. Not sure if LUV has really helped Candis' cause though because he doesn't have any upcoming movies unfortunately.

LUV did end up getting a nomination for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, but besides that the critical response hasn't been very good. I can understand as well because despite a strong cast that pulls off some good performances, the script is really at fault here. We'll get to that though.


Genre: crime, drama
Directed by: Sheldon Candis
Produced by: Jason Michael Berman, Gordon Bijelonic, Common, etc.
Written by: Sheldon Candis, Justin Wilson
Music by: Nuno Malo
Running time: 94 minutes
Production company: LUV Films 5, Gordon Bijelonic / Datari Turner Films, Hollywood Studios, etc.
Distributed by: Indomina Releasing, Eagle Films, Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $156,996 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Lonette McKee, Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Good, Marz Lovejoy, Michael Kenneth Williams, Russell Hornsby, Tracey Heggins, Joseph 'Joey Boy' Soremekun, Clark Johnson, Malcolm C. Berman, Robin Frisby, Cyrus Jones



Woody Watson (Michael Rainey Jr.) is a young boy who lives in Baltimore with his grandmother (Lonette McKee). After eight years in prison, his uncle Vincent (Common) has returned home and aims to open a crab restaurant. Embarking on a long day of business to get things under way, Vincent is disappointed to see his nephew get shy when a girl looks at him while dropping him off at school. He decides to take Woody under his wing for the day and give him some tutorials in life.


The story starts off by planting some relatively good seeds. Take the character of Woody who thinks of his mother all the time, not knowing what's happened to her. He latches on to the hope that Vincent is going to bring him to see her as he says he will. Vincent's story is the more interesting one though, with a lot of unknowns about his past and what landed him behind bars. 

The strongest aspect of LUV are definitely the performances. Common is very good as the ex-con with a heart of gold and the supporting cast is also very good. Who doesn't love Danny Glover anyway? Dennis Haysbert and Charles S. Dutton are very good too though. Michael Rainey Jr. as Woody doesn't take over the screen at any point really, but he's adequate in his role. 

I would describe the cinematography as intimate since there are a lot of closeups on faces. LUV also features a certain amount of commentary regarding the economy of Baltimore with many shots of foreclosed homes for example. It's not easy for anyone is the message here and that's especially true for someone just getting out of prison like Vincent is. It doesn't take that much of a stretch of the imagination to figure out what he'll be forced to do if he really wants to get his restaurant started.

However, LUV starts to unravel the more the story goes on. There's an overly heavy tone that detracts from some of the dramatic scenes. It just feels like LUV is trying too hard sometimes when it doesn't need to. When situations get out of control, it's hard to take this film seriously which is too bad. Woody also goes through some overly exaggerated character growth that is beyond believable. Add in a totally ridiculous ending and you have a movie that just can't put the pieces together.

I really did like Common a lot in LUV and I'd love to see him in some more starring roles like this. You know, I even remember liking him in the silly romance movie Just Wright with Queen Latifah. He can do drama no problem. Sheldon Candis and Justin Wilson's script just leaves a lot to be desired and wastes the great performances from Common's other great screenmates.



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