by: Valerie Elverton-Dixon on November 19th, 2013 | Comments Off
It has been 14 years since the movie-going public has seen a group of college friends come together for the wedding of their friends, a football star and his fiancé – Lance and Mia– in The Best Man. In the movie, the best man for the couple – Harper– has written a novel based on the college days of the group. Tension arises when a secret from the past is revealed and the entire wedding is in jeopardy.
The best man, who questions the existence of God, encourages his friend, the groom, to rely on his own faith to make the decision whether or not to go through with the wedding. Now fast forward 14 years to the sequel –The Best Man Holiday– a movie full of laughter and tears, and we see how these characters have developed over the course of time. Friendship and faith remain the heart and soul of both movies, and, in my opinion, is the reason for their success.
There has been much ink about the first weekend success of The Best Man Holiday, the movie having earned more than 30 million dollars. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/11/18/245941099/the-best-man-holiday-and-the-language-of-expectations) There is much commentary about the thirst for African-American audiences to see positive images of themselves on screen. I say the movies that African-Americans choose to support are deeper than that. Such is the case with The Best Man Holiday.
The movie not only speaks to the importance of friendship and faith, but it also shows how these characters are faced with the challenges of careers, the proper balance between work and life outside of work. It shows us how the best man, played by Taye Diggs, finds himself in a moral quandary, caught between his financial circumstances and whether or not he can use without misusing his friendship with the football star friend played by Morris Chestnut. We see jealousy and confusion about unresolved issues from the past and a good deal of humor. At the same time we see friends doing what good friends do, walking together and supporting each other through the joys and sorrows of life.
The movie reminds us that when we consider the basic needs of life, those needs go beyond food, shelter, clothing, health care and education. They include the need for friends and the need for love. In one scene, Jordan Armstrong, the ambitious, successful, strong, award-winning television producer — played by Nia Long– tells her boyfriend that she does not need him. The moment she says it, we sense that she wished that she had not.
Many women know exactly what she meant. She does not need him for money or for prestige. She has earned these on her own. However, she does need his love, his gift of presence. Many women find it difficult to navigate this communication, to find appropriate ways to say: “I do not need you, but I want you in my life. Your presence brings joy to my life.” As we mature, we come to understand that our friends are what make life worth living, that they are at once a gift from God and the presence of Divine Love.
In the first movie, we see Lance as a man of faith, but it is a faith of rules. The rules are different for men and for women. It leaves us to wonder about whether his rules are evidence of a relationship with the divine or not. In the second movie, we see that the realities of life and death mean that he must set aside rules for relationship. He must forgive if he has any hope of surviving the challenges that lie ahead of him. He must forgive because he will need his friends to help him through the valley of the shadow of death.
BothThe Best Man and The Best Man Holiday are solid pieces of entertainment. They are just fun to watch. At the same time, they give us much food for thought. This is the reason that they have done well at the box office.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is the founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.