A great storyline and an amazing soundtrack, “Love Jones” was a film that reflected the beauty of young, Black love and shed light on and built support for an entire subculture of Hip-Hop-influenced poetry. “Love Jones” encouraged a poetic era of urban culture inspiring poetry nights and cafes to emerge in major cities around the country. It also helped cement “finger-snapping,” which originated in New York during the poetry night at Brooklyn Moon, the universal symbol of appreciation during a poetry show. The film is also credited with inspiring the creation of “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam”.
Starring Nia Long as Nina Mosley, and Larenz Tate as Darius Lovehall, “Love Jones” was released March 14, 1997, to an urban marketplace that had just suffered the loss of Notorious B.I.G. earlier that same week. While the in-theater viewing was not considered a major success, over time, the film became a cult classic. “Love Jones” was also critically acclaimed, earning the “Audience Award,” at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival and 3 out of 4 stars from Roger Ebert, who applauded the unconventional love story, stating, “Some audience members would probably prefer a romantic embrace in the sunset, as the music swells. But “Love Jones” is too smart for that.”
Indeed, “Love Jones” was a smart film. In a decade that produced numerous violent urban films like “Boyz in the Hood” (also featuring Long), “Menace II Society” (which also featured Tate), “Juice”, “New Jersey Drive”, and more, “Love Jones” was the exact opposite. It was an African-American love story that featured no violence or use of recreational drugs. Director Theodore Witcher told TheRoot.com, “I wanted to do something that was closer to my dating experience — there was a lot of game playing. Also, I was a part of a similar world in Chicago in the early ’90s and thought it was an interesting backdrop on which to paint this young romantic story.”
The tagline “Get Together. Fall Apart. Start Over.” perfectly described this story of two lovers who couldn’t seem to get on the same page at the same time for most of the film, and was and is still a reflection of young urban love. In fact, the beloved film would make a well-received sequel, which according to Nia Long in a recent interview with Essence.com, is a real possibility. “There’s talk about it.” She states, “Larenz and I, if we do it, we’re going to do it right, and we’re gonna do it together. It’s a classic film and it has to be handled as such. And if these two characters can grow in a realistic way and we can do the film in a way that still gives people the feeling of ‘Wow, there’s still movies about Black love.’”
Black love was the basis of the film and the soundtrack, which is also still a classic. Love Jones: The Music (Original Soundtrack) broke the Top 20 on The Billboard 200 back in 1997. Released at the beginning of the neo-soul era, the album featured original music from Maxwell, Groove Theory, and Refugee Camp All-Stars featuring Lauryn Hill, with the amazing, “The Sweetest Thing.”
Good music, a good plot, and amazing cultural influence are what make the 15th anniversary of this film so significant. “Love Jones” created a craving for Black love stories on film that has yet to be filled.
Haven’t seen “Love Jones”? Shame on you. In the meantime, watch the video below as Larenz Tate talks to AllHipHop.com about his favorite movie roles, including Darius Lovehall: