Medicine for Melancholy (2008) Poster

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Medicine AND melancholy--and spot-on dialogue
Chris Knipp13 May 2008
Micah (Wyatt Cenac) takes Joanne (Tracey Heggins) to the Museum of the African Diaspora on a Sunday afternoon. They woke up that morning in somebody else's house not knowing each other's names after a one-night stand at a party where they both got very drunk. It's San Francisco. They're black. They ride bikes. She was very unfriendly at first, not just because it was a drunken coupling but because she has a white curator boyfriend she lives with who just happens to be in London for the moment, but she loves him.

The first part of this first film by Barry Jenkins, which is shot in digital video tuned to be almost but not quite totally drained of color (like the city, as we are to learn), with pale grays and very white whites, is sustained by Micah's efforts to make Joanne want to spend some time with him. He thinks they ought to get to know each other, and it's a Sunday. She's not at all interested at first. They're both hung over, after all. She lets him take her home in a taxi and then just gets out and runs. But she leaves her wallet on the floor. To go back and find her it takes a search, on his bike, across town, because the address on her license isn't current. The film is also sustained by being very specifically shot in San Francisco. When Joanne goes to a gallery to run an errand it's a very specific gallery. The Museum of the African Diaspora is the Museum of the African Diaspora. The light is San Francisco light. Micah and Joanne are young urban sophisticates. That, as Micah points out, is not only specific but makes them a small minority of a small minority, because gentrification has shrunk the city's blacks to 7% of the city population (New York's proportion is 28%).

Later buying groceries for dinner at his place (because Micah succeeds and Joanne does spend the day with him, and more) they happen upon a group discussing what appears to be the imminent banishment of rent control in San Francisco. Is Jenkins lecturing us, or just treading water? It doesn't matter so much, because the interactions of Micah and Joanne and the wry, cautious words they use when they talk to each other remain central, and are as specific and accurate to who they are (if not to San Francisco) as the cityscapes and the special light.

These two fine actors and this sensitive filmmaker certainly know how to make it real and to record how unpredictably things change from minute to minute. When Micah takes Joanne to the museum, instead of SFMoMA (her original suggestion), and then to the Martin Luther King Memorial at Yerba Buena Center, maybe it's turning into a pretty cool date. But when he leads her over a little bridge there and says, "This is like LA," she just rather coldly says, "Never been," and then, rubbing it in once more and pulling back, "This is a one-night stand." A ride on the merry-go-round at Yerba Buena, she seems to be saying, isn't going to change anything. This delicate homage to a moment is also a rueful acknowledgment of how hard it is to change the way things are.

And it has to be a bit of a lecture, because Micah is "born and raised," while Joanne is a "transplant," and he wants to remind her how the Fillmore and the Lower Haight were wiped out in the Sixties in "Urban Redevelopment:" goodbye black people, goodbye white artists. Micah lives in an immaculate little apartment in the Tenderloin. Micah, as the voice of Barry Jenkins, wants to reclaim San Francisco for everyday people.

Actually, Micah and Joanne seem like a perfect couple. Maybe that's why they can't be together, except just for this one day? You want to just shout out to them, "Can't you just be friends?" They fit so well together. Is this 'Medicine for Melancholy' or just 'melancholy'? Maybe it's medicine 'and' melancholy. That must be it. A fine little lyric of people and a place. And wholly without cliché except maybe for the tagline: "A night they barely remember becomes a day they'll never forget. "

Seen at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2008. This had its debut at SXSW, the South by Southwest Interactive event in Austin, Texas. 'Medicine for Melancholy' tied for the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature in San Francisco with Rodrigo Pla's 'La Zona.'
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jamesdamnbrown17 June 2009
You couldn't make a movie that looks more like my day to day life in San Francisco than this. Telling the story of two black twenty-somethings who meet and have a one night stand, they start off the morning after in Bernal Heights, walk over to Noe Valley for breakfast, hop a cab to the Marina to drop her off, then he heads back to his studio on Geary at Hyde, two blocks from where I once rented a nearly identical apartment, down to the rotating walk-in closet door that once sported a Murphy bed. The couple meet again and head to the Museum of the African Diaspora on Mission and then over to Yerba Buena Gardens to ride the merry-go-round, both a block away from where I work. Later that night they buy stuff for dinner at Rainbow Grocery then head down to the Knockout to dance while my pal DJ Paul Paul spins 45s although his oldies singles are overdubbed on the film's soundtrack with obscure but cool indie rock. But aside from the pleasure of seeing all my usual haunts captured on on film, or digital video rather, Medicine For Melancholy is a smart movie that captures not only the vibe of life in downtown San Francisco, but also the subtleties of the changing ethnic and economic demographics of the second most expensive city in the country. The guy—played by Wyatt Cenac, an occasional correspondent on John Stewart's Daily Show—has a deadpan quarrelsomeness that is occasionally hilarious, because not only is he concerned about the ongoing disenfranchisement of the black community in the city, he's also bugged about the pending disenfranchisement of himself from the girl's pants once her live-in boyfriend returns to town. Her boyfriend, by the way, is white, which Cenac's character tries to elevate to a political issue because of his looming romantic frustration, but she's not having it, which leads to one of the film's best exchanges as they argue about the role race plays in forming their sense of self-identity. Lots of clever relationship stuff, like surreptitiously scoping out each other's MySpace profiles and sharp naturalistic dialogue as they continually negotiate and renegotiate the emotional boundaries and ending point of their one day affair. And maybe the scene with the housing activists meeting was a digression, but you know what, if you live here that stuff is very important and on everybody's mind, and it fits nicely given the context of the film whether you like it or not. Highly recommended.
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One night stands lead to profound connections
alison-jasonides7 December 2009
The premise of a man and woman rushing through all the phases of falling in love in one twenty-four hour period with the backdrop of a great city is a popular one. Nonetheless, it is a formula I never tire of, especially given the three main characters of "Medicine for Melancholy": Micah, Jo and the city of San Francisco. An awkward introduction in the light of day after a drunken one-night stand leads to an inauspicious "date" spent biking and cabbing around San Francisco. Unlike the relentless (but entertaining) dialogue of the Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy characters in "Before Sunrise," or the charming tension between the mis-matched and ill-fated Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday," the couple in "MFM" spend long moments of non-verbal connecting that is tinged by an overt sadness. This melancholy is confirmed by the sad dog eyes of Micah, the initially cold reaction of Jo and the lovely washed out hues of James Laxton's cinematography as he records the events of the single day shared by the couple. This movie is not driven by a narrative per se but by a series of moments that show a real emotional ballast many cinematic long-term relationships could not convey. Yet, the inevitability of the day's end and thus of the relationship's (mirrored by the fate of the city itself as it succumbs to a gentrified, character-less version of its fabled self), create a longing I felt hours after the movie ended. The soundtrack certainly contributed.
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Elagant, Intelligent and Powerful
matty0313 March 2009
I wasn't sure what to expect when I sat down to view this film. I knew it had been filmed here in San Francisco and had won some praise. And, I knew it was low-budget/indie.

However, nothing prepared me for the beauty and quiet power of this film. Aside from the painfully beautiful and realistic performances of the two actors and the story of a stretched out one night stand is something that more than a few of us can relate to/with --- what really makes this film stand out for me is the artistic use of editing and cinematography.

The director has created a sharp and tightly made film. Not in color and not in black and white -- the film really sparkles by use of some form of muted visual effect that works on multiple levels considering the story, emotions, actions and lives of the two characters. The editing is perfect -- creating a pace which is both natural and urgent all at once.

I found this film to be close to perfect and elegant.

I suspect we will see a number of indie filmmakers attempt to copy the style of this film.

How refreshing to see a truly original film which never falls back on cliché or indie film tricks.

I also found the use of San Francisco to be quite clever. The city acts as not only a sort of symbol for various aspects of the characters and their relationship but almost as a third character hovering in every single scene.

This is movie not to be missed!
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I want to see more from this director
cuhk22 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very nice film that I enjoyed very much. Back in the mid-1980s, on a Labor Day weekend, my girlfriend and I were trying to pick a film to see. As we perused the sparse offerings, we came across an ad that featured African Americans. I shouted, "Lets go see this. It has black people in it". At the time, there were so few films being done by and about blacks, we quickly rushed out to see it. We were met by a line snaking around the block. That film turned about to be Spike Lee's first film, "She's Gotta Have It". The rest is history. If this film is any indication, the future of black film-making is in good hands. The debut feature by Barry Jenkins (also, coincidentally, shot in black and white with sexual overtones) traces the post one night stand of two San Francisco twenty-somethings as they grapple with the awkwardness of what has just taken place as well as the obvious attraction they have for one another. The third character in the film is the city of San Francisco. If you have never been to SF, it is a wonderful, eclectic metropolis. It is the only Cali city with a big east coast city feel. All three of the characters are attractive to watch and play their roles well. Inertia means that a body @ rest or in motion tends to stay in its current state unless acted upon by a great enough force. Since Jo, the female character, is already in a relationship, you wonder if the magnetism between she and Wyatt will generate enough "force" to displace her current lover. Find and view the film to find out. I viewed the film in Hollywood, CA. and had the privilege of sitting in on a Q & A with the film's director and actors so I am privy to a lot of additional info about the film that is not on the screen. Suffice to say, I hope that this filmmaker and these fine actors get the opportunity to display their talents much more in the future.
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A good film.
UNOhwen16 May 2012
First, a comment to the two reviewers who found this film 'slow,' etc;

The pace of films - for MOST of the 20th century were at a much slower pace. It lets the director get to know the characters, etc.

In today's film market - in which a HUGE part of the pie is overseas sales/distribution - dialogue doesn't translate, but, ACTIONS do.

That's one of the reasons why most films of the past decade or so, have interchangeable plots, characters - the story is second to the action.

Saying that, let me talk about MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY.

I came in a few minutes after it had begun. I'd never seen, nor heard of it (my friend had left the TV on, and was actually watching something prior - FLAWLESS, with R. DeNiro.

I came in when Micah was in a cab bringing the lost wallet he'd found back to it's owner, Jo (I know that they'd had casual sex just before this, and didn't know each other).

I got caught up in the dialogue. It was slow. It as natural, as to how two people meet (awkwardly) at inopportune times.

I quickly picked up on the ambivalence Jo' was having, and Micah, just trying (at first) to get to know Jo a bit.

The film follows them throughout that day - and that night, as the two start to reveal more of themselves. A third important cast member, who's very important, is the sprawling city of San Francisco.

I love the cinematography done on this film. It's a loving portrayal of San Francisco.

The pair walk through streets, and neighbourhoods, that are far from the shiny images tourists see, or think of, when they hear the city's name.

As for the performances of both the two (verbal) actors, I enjoyed their charisma, and I hope to see more from them in the future.

MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY is not for people who are impatient, or 'don't get' plots. But, for those who enjoy spending an afternoon, and just letting a film wash over you, this one's definitely one to watch.
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Clunky at times but mostly a charming little lo-fi indie piece that works for what it is
bob the moo9 December 2009
Micah and Jo' wake up next to one another after an one-night-stand at a drunken party. Slipping away they awkwardly go their separate ways, but Micah sees her later to return her wallet. They spend the remainder of that day together, biking and walking around San Francisco and chatting generally as they go. This is about the size of the plot and those looking for more of a definite narrative should probably be warned that this is very much a niche indie film that will appeal chiefly to those that like the film almost before they have seen it. I'm not sure if I fall into that category as an older casual viewer but then I did make a certain amount of effort to get hold of the film so I suppose I did have a vested interest to like it. And mostly I did like it: mostly.

The low-key indie feel of the whole film will feel pretentious to some I'm sure but for me it had a certain lo-fi charm that came from the project as a whole. Although the path of the two characters didn't really strike me as realistic or convincing, the charm with which it was delivered helped me to put this out of my mind for the most part. This allowed me to hang out with them as they bumble around the city together in a way that will be recognisable to anyone who has done the same in any major city. In this regard I really liked the film and I enjoyed the "coolness" of it and I didn't care too much that "nothing was happening" in a traditional sense.

This makes for a very slight film and it needed to have a conclusion that fits that – which it sort of does, the problem is more what it includes in the final third. We suddenly have discussions over race that feel clunky compared to the majority of the scenes that had gone before; this made it a little grating and didn't fit with the rest of the film. Of course this does fit well when compared to the sudden introducing of a meeting of random people discussing gentrification in San Francisco, this doesn't fit at all and indeed this sudden introduction of social commentary just clunks onto the screen without any real context or relevance, giving the impression that the film wants to have this aspect but wasn't able or willing to make it part of the whole film, but rather just one scene.

The charm of it is key though and the casting was very important in making this work. Finding Wyatt Cenac in the lead was a surprise and perhaps a bit of a worry since I generally find him to be the least able of those on the Daily Show; I like him but his performances on that show are never as good as John Olivier, Larry Wilmore or some of the stronger ones. Here though he is awkwardly charming in a weird geeky way. He does walk a fine line because at times he could have been irritating but he keeps it on the right side of the line. He is helped a lot by his chemistry with Heggins. She is wonderfully awkward and cute; OK she never got her character's motivations through to me but I still really took to her and to both of them together.

Medicine for Melancholy is a very slight film though and it is not something to come to with high expectations. Rather the indie design and delivery is something that charms those that left it, thanks to the work by maker Jenkins and also the chemistry of the lead two. The attempts to have some form of commentary or meaning in it really clunk towards the end but ultimately, while not great, it is a lo-fi indie pleasure.
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All Summer in a Day
jamespark9 March 2008
Just saw the premiere at SXSW. An absolutely beautiful movie. I love the look of the film. The way it's shot changes over time as the story unfolds subtly reinforcing events on screen. The actors work so very wonderfully together. The protagonists are able to connect via a shared circumstance not easily communicated to others. The feelings and thoughts of both over the 24 hours of this film's settings really came through and affected me greatly. Kudos to the whole team. They were able to make a professional-looking film with a skeleton crew and a nearly nonexistent budget which any auteur would be proud of. I can't wait to be able to see this movie again, next time in SF.
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***** intimate, brilliant, boring, but with a nice soundtrack
mbmiller-o8 April 2010
It was lucky that I had a computer nearby so that I could read email while watching this movie. There is a kind of quirky genius to it and I did feel an intimate connection to the characters at times. It felt real and familiar, a little bit awkward to be seeing them so close and personal. In a way the extreme realness of the film was its downfall. Hitchcock once said something to the effect that films are like real life with the boring parts taken out. Too many of the boring parts were left in this film.

The cinematography is weak, but the use of muted colors matches the plodding dullness of the film, which may have been the intention. The music was a strong point, I thought -- it was different and original, fresh and creative.
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O-ver-ra-ted!!! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) O-ver-ra-ted!!! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)
TheQuietStorm13 April 2009
And this is coming from someone who eagerly anticipated seeing this film. I was not impressed. In fact, I was bored stiff for most of the film.

It started off with a lot of promise. I was engaged to the mystery of these two totally different characters, brought together by a one-night stand and reunited by curiosity--possibly loneliness. Despite her cattiness, I approved of the idea of him pursuing her and finding out who she really is. As I expected, she turns out to be a lonely yet worldly, intelligent, open minded woman who became smitten by the equally lonesome, pro-black charmer with radical ideologies. The dialogue was great and the cinematography was solid.

Then, the film went left for me. It started with the preachy conversation they had at her place. It was appropriate but too convenient for the telling of this story. Then we move on to some uninteresting visuals inside a museum, some angled on passages I needed to be a speed reader just to take in before it was cut away, only to learn that I was being preached to even more. The whole 2nd ACT seemed to be stretched out in order to reach the necessary amount of minutes needed to be categorized as a legitimate feature. I mean, that party scene was longer than the both of "House Party" and "House Party 2," and what happened? Nothing. Just a long, drawn out uneventful party scene.

To make things worse, the filmmaker threw in this moment featuring a community group discussing gentrification, a subject I'm deeply concerned about. However, it was touched on just enough to feel forced and not enough to hold any relevance for the story.

Also, the acting seemed flat, mostly due to the male lead.

In the end, I didn't know these characters at all. I wanted to care but I really didn't. I learned absolutely nothing. I even found myself reaching for a connection between gentrification and the love story. I may see how the main characters and their choices are being influenced by it, but that's me pushing it. The connection was unclear, leaving me with the only option of looking for something that might not be there. It wasn't a good film. 4/10.
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A profound & melancholy anti-racist film
leftistcritic13 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched this first major film of Barry Jenkins, which was very different from his other films, Moonlight (2016) and If Beale Street Could Talk (2018). The color tones of this film were muted so it wasn't completely in black-and-white which fit with the overall tenor of the movie which made it interesting. The plot is simple: it chronicles the short romance of Micah (played by Wyatt Cenac) and Jo (played by Tracey Heggins), two Black people in their 20s in San Fransisco, taking place across one day apparently but it seems like 2-3 days. Not only do they both discuss relationship of Black people (7% of San Fransisco) to White people in the city, specifically "hipster" people, but differences in class. Micah works to install aquariums while Jo has no job but only makes shirts with female artists emblazoned on them, depending on her White boyfriend, a curator in London, whom is always distant.

There are some other important elements of this film. For one there is very little dialogue and Jenkins attempts to make it look like you are right there with the actors. The colors seem to raise and deepen when Micah and Jo are happy, ending with full color at the end. According to the director certain scenes in the film have more color when characters are not thinking about housing or race issues, which is interesting. In some way both characters are relatively intellectual, going to varying museums, one for MLK and another for Black art. I also liked the elements that look dated now such as the cell phones of a certain type and Micah literally searching for Jo on Myspace, when people would now just search on Facebook for instance. Some elements of the film could seem out of place, like the 5-10 minute scene of a community meeting about gentrification in San Francisco but it completely fits and is important to have in the film.

In a profound way, the film is melancholy but that is the point. Jo is pulled to the White world by her boyfriend, museums, and their curators but then to the Black world by her fling with Micah. It reminds me a bit of the division of Starr between the White and Black world in The Hate U Give, which came out last year. Micah and Jo were both strong-willed characters, each in their own way. It is a sweet and intimate with Micah as pushy as she thinks that the division between the White and Black world is not as hard and fast as Micah makes it. This is also interesting because Jenkins is somewhat at the top the Hollyweird heap now but wasn't then. This film really throws you into the culture of San Francisco more than Sorry to Bother You does for Oakland I'd argue. This film also covers the idea of identity with Micah seeing himself as Black more than a man while Jo doesn't want to be so limiting, refusing to do the same, in a sense assimilating into White culture you could say.

With that I'm ending this review by saying this film is powerful and unlike other films I have seen, fully deserving of a rating of 10 out of 10.
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The Black guy!
juanmuscle24 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
At first I was like oh, this is a surrogate romcom with black people substituted, like really white black people, whitened that is, that's cool, casue I don't know much about black culture, I'm Latin and really whitened as I don't know much about Mexican culture lol.... But, as it turned out, I didn't really understand too much the attraction, how they came together or why they shared a stint of time but at the end I really really felt like I understood why they split and went back to the white folk paradigm. I thought the black guy was onto something, the undercurrent of the film kept rearing its ugly head against the background of people white or black or whatever speaking on social civic issues esp. gentrification and I started to realize that the black guy was onto something whilst the black girl, lets face it was in deep denial, yet she began to let go as we the audience began to realize that the black guy was really really really onto something.

I really think the dude that did this, is an excellent writer, great script, I love his directing and I can't wait to see his Baldwin adaptation! I can't wait... This felt a lot as if Baldwin would write a romcom about black people and a script it would be something like this but this didn't have people in jail or jumping off bridges, it was more unfolding the horror of today's gross clandestine hypocritical racist and everything else that is wrong with contemporary society.
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Interesting but flawed
robinsonfeatures13 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Micah and Jo meet at a party, get drunk, have sex and wake up the following morning with hangovers. She is more than willing to let it end there, to the point of lying about her real name and running away, but Micah has other ideas. After discovering her name and address he tracks her down to the apartment she shares with her white curator boyfriend who is away working in London. Jo reluctantly lets him in and he proceeds to question her about who pays her rent, whether her boyfriend is white, why there are no pictures on the wall as well as questioning her blackness. Although he comes across as somewhat annoying, for the purposes of the plot we are led to believe that Jo is so charmed by his behaviour that she agrees to spend the day with him. Micah spends the time continuing to criticise Jo's awareness of black culture, complaining about the gentrification of the city which parallels the gentrification of black people, questioning Jo's lack of employment and finally berating her for not being involved with a person of colour.

For all his blackness Micah is ignorant about why Black History Month is in February. For all his complaints about gentrification he is not part of the campaign to halt it. He complains about Jo's boyfriend being white but it is clear from his MySpace page that his former girlfriend was white. Micah is not impressed with Jo spending her time printing teeshirts to sell but his job cleaning out fish tanks is hardly anything to brag about and his final rant that she should be going out black or Latino men doesn't carry much weight as he doesn't appear to have any black or Latino friends. Heck the party where they meet is thrown by a wealthy white guy who he is clearly friends with.

Although Jo seems to be relatively intelligent and confident, she fails to stand up to many of the criticisms levelled at her, or call Micah out on his obvious hypocrisy. So we are left wondering why it is Jo gives Micah such an easy ride. Is it because she shares Micah's rather narrow view of the world? Or that she simply sees no point in making unnecessary waves when their association is just a one day distraction from her real life. How much more satisfying would it have been for her to turn the tables on Micah and get him to open up about his real reason for pursuing her so hard and why he had such a problem with her boyfriend being white. Was it that he'd had his heart broken by a white woman and felt things would be easier with a black partner? Or was he looking to exact some kind of revenge?

I stumbled across this film pretty recently. It was categorised as part of the mumblecore genre presumably because it had an obviously small budget and featured then unknown actors and playing characters of a certain age who spend most of the film simply talking to one another. Where it differs from the usual mumblecore offering is that the characters are black and that race along with gentrification are big themes. It's interesting to read the glowing reviews about this film and while part of me agrees with the poster who suggested they were written by people involved in the production, I think it's more likely to be dow to a willingness to overlook the film's obvious flaws because there are sadly so few films featuring hipster black people happily listening to indie music and part of the indie scene.
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... it's a very well done little film, that you will watch again
bjarias2 November 2014
Unless he's willing to pursue a white woman (and he's totally not), he only has 5 out of every 100 women to choose from in the city. Then he finds a black woman he really desires, and he's torn up she's partnered with a white guy. As for her, although she really likes this bicycle man, and their hot & steamy sex they've had over a couple days, and she seems somewhat unhappy in her present relationship.. she ain't going to be switching lifestyles (remember too, she's unemployed), and moving from a nice, spacious, comfortable condo, into a tiny cramped box of an apartment, along with three bicycles and a fish-tank. So it does not appear she is going to be making any changes, and thus she rises early, and without goodbyes, peddles away as fast as she can. When the chemistry works between actors, and the dialog well written, these kinds of films are a joy to watch... a solid yes for viewing. And as an added bonus, there are several story-lines intertwined throughout the film.. all well done. This is engaging, intelligent, entertaining cinema.
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Disappointment for the Moonlight Curios
Quinoa19847 February 2017
Medicine for Melancholy finds Barry Jenkins in his first feature as writer and director grasping for nothing. I can believe he was working from a script, though the feel and approach is closer to the style by the Duplass brothers and Andrew Bujalski and Joe Swanberg and those loose-as-whatever cats ("Mumblecore" to the critical laymans). What develops here is too little, and as a basic character portrait it falters because the two leads have zero chemistry.

More than that, Wyatt Cenac is both miscast and misdirected; I can believe that he can be funny (at least in a deadpan approach and playing off of someone who can match him) since he was on the Daily Show and other comedy ventures I'd liked, but as the lead in what is ALL about behavior and character and is deep down a drama, he brings less than nothing in this tiny sliver of a slice of life about a guy who tries to connect with a woman he had a one-night stand with (and that she cheated on her boyfriend, who happens to be white, though we never see him, God forbid Jenkins allow some added conflict or emotions to rise)

The two leads need to have enough charisma or chemistry or ANYTHING to keep us engaged, but they're given little by Jenkins (Cenac picks up a a guitar at one point, that's about it, the rest of the time he is either indifferent to Jo, played by Tracey Higgins), and they don't spark at all off of one another. Compared to them, Anakin and Padme are Michael Douglass and Glenn Close in the first act of Fatal Attraction. And it's not that they need to show full on sexual chemistry or anything like that (there is a sex scene but it's shot in all close- ups and done in a tasteful way, which is fine), but something needs to be there, whether it's dialog that can carry them to a place where we understand what draws them together or mutual interests and so on.

We don't get to know much about these two people, aside from the fact that Micah is obsessed with how black people are portrayed in society and are seen in that way (in the moment of the film where things finally come to some climax as she calls him out on it this is a primary issue), and that Jo likes, uh, art, and thinks Bowie and Queen's Under Pressure is better than Ice, Ice, Baby because it's Bowie and Queen (Micah thinks the beat is used better by Vanilla Ice, nevermind that a white guy is using a beat for a lame rap song and the cultural appropriation baggage there). Even in the brief dip into a pop culture talk, the moment where we might see this man and woman not unlike we might be as couples or trying to get to know people, it's awkward and stilted.

So what Jenkins gives his audience is a lot of these characters walking around, talking here and there, having a moment of sex, and mostly her telling him to do things (take a shower, get something to eat, go dance), and then the realization that (gasp) they have nothing in common. There's no insight, no enjoyment being with this couple, regardless of if the futilism Micah's doing is meant to be interesting in and of itself (this is post a break-up I think, it's unclear though, thanks MySpace reference).

When a filmmaker announces him or herself as a major force in modern cinema with one film it's kind of a big deal, and not unlike Damien Chazelle did with Whiplash and then his follow-up La La Land, it's staggering to consider the quantum leap he had from Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, and the same can be said here for Jenkins from 'Melancholy' to Moonlight. At least Chazelle had the musical sense already down even if the narrative was sloppy; here, it's like a character exercise that was stretched for far too long, and Jenkins and DP James Laxton (who also shot in brilliant strokes Moonlight) give this a look that should be black and white but seems to be more washed-out, like all of the color has been washed and left to dry on a clothes hanger in the backyard. Though Laxton gets some interesting shots, it's unpleasant to look at, and it makes it a tough sit due to the fact that the characters are unpleasant, or at least the reason they stick together is unpleasant.

One full star goes to the use of Tom Waits' 'Lie to Me.'
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In a World Without Color
gavin694228 December 2016
Twenty-four hours in the tentative relationship of two young San Franciscans also dealing with the conundrum of being a minority in a rapidly gentrifying city.

Barry Jenkins has described the film's two main characters as "playing out a debate back and forth about identity politics". Each of the two main characters embodies an ideology. Jenkins saw the character of Micah as a man who was always building barriers, whereas Jo thinks that race is a limiter. Accusing Jo of assimilation, Micah strives to reclaim his essential "blackness" as Jo contrastingly claims Micah has a "hang up" about his race and strives to overcome her own.

Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, calling the actors "effortlessly engaging" and the direction "assured"; he also noted the film was "beautifully photographed". Ebert is right on all counts. The acting is superb, very natural, and really shows off Wyatt Cenac as more than a comedian. The direction is strong, and the cinematography is gorgeous, some of the best you will find anywhere, whether in a big budget film or indie.

The discussion of race is great. As a white man, maybe I can't see the issue from the point of view of Micah, Jo or Barry Jenkins. But I love that there's this divide of ideas. Micah is indignant, as he should be, about being a minority. But Jo prefers to look forward. Indeed, how does one define themselves? I don't think of myself as "white", and sometimes not even as a "man", but do these things define me whether or not I choose to accept them?
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Great for trouble sleeping
firefox2k6 March 2017
I just watched this film on NetFlix. It was recommended by some critics online who saw the film awhile back and saying that it was a beautiful film. Riding high of the Oscar win, this film by Barry Jenkins was supposedly an inspiration which lead to the creation of Moonlight. I am always looking for undiscovered gems which I may not have seen before, to enjoy on days I have off of work. I am sorry to say, but maybe this film is just "too hip" for me. I have tried, and failed to what this film 3 times. Each time falling asleep while attempting to stay awake. The pale color pallet, the slow pace, the awkward dialog, make for a mix of great boredom. I am glad others found joy in this film, but I have found much better films online of the same nature.
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Totally Overrated Bore
mastershaman9 November 2009
I have no idea what these other reviewers are talking about. Usually these types of glowing reviews are sneaked in by people associated with the film to "prop it up" on the web. This is a painfully slow, bleak looking amateurish "student film" grade bore, topped with an implausible feeling. Forced, pretentious performances especially on the part of the girl played by the amateurish Tracey Heggins. I couldn't keep watching it after the first 10 minutes. I've seen too many of these where you're hoping against all hope that the film will get better - it doesn't 99% of the time so give it up now. I really can't understand what the fuss was about regarding this film on the festival circuit.
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gnfnrlives6 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I love this movie because I used to live in the City and it warms my heart to see it again. I hate this movie because the actors have zero chemistry. Wyatt Cynac, while charming as all hell on The Daily Show, comes off like an ignorant douche-bag and the female lead has all the personality of a dead fish. I actually found myself annoyed with the film by the end. Also, as Wyatt's character points out, the SFC is a beautiful city with a wealth of potential details. His character lives in the Tenderloin District which can be really colorful to say the least. Yet the director kind of glossed over that. The film ultimately seemed to be about hipster a-holes who, lets be honest, have to be the least interesting people on the planet. I had high hopes for this film but walked away very disappointed.
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Excellent character romance is good enough that I wish it didn't look like so many other independent films since its way better than what the look is trying to copy
dbborroughs6 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
two people wake up after a night together and find they have no real idea who the other person is (they don't even know their name). Over time they find something between them. Really good really real character study made me want to slap the director across the face with his camera for insisting on making it look like an independent film. This is one of films that annoys the heck out of me because the director tries to do more than just tell the simple story, rather he tries to make the film seem hip and happening by giving it a typical "inde" feel. The inde-feel was the reason I didn't watch this on IFC in Theaters when I had the chance, but last night as I flailed about trying to find something good to watch I put in the DVD in desperation and found I liked the film but hated the feel. That said its a really good film, worth giving a shot.
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