Movie Review: A Raisin In The Sun

When is the right time to love someone? Is it when it’s all good and the world is going your way? Do you love someone when they’re living the good life and high on the hog? Or is it when they are down in the dumps, seemingly out of second chances and on the verge of a breakdown? That central question lies at the heart of A Raisin In The Sun.

Set in 1950s era Chicago, Sun is the story of Walter Lee Younger, played by Sean “Diddy” Combs, the only son of a widowed mother (Phylicia Rashad), brother to an aspiring doctor( Sanaa Lathan), husband (to wife Ruth played with the utmost passion and emotion by 4-Time tony Award winner Audra McDonald) and father to his only son (new comer Justin Martin).

Walter is a man with big dreams, and hopes for his life, but often finds those hopes and dreams just beyond his reach. Frustrated by the confines of his overcrowded apartment, which houses the entire family, a baby on the way, and a job driving around a rich white man, Walter Lee embodies the desires and frustrations of many young men in America, a land where many have so much yet many more can do nothing but watch the gap between themselves and those that have widen.

Walter Lee’s father was a very proud man, who worked himself thin and to death, but his parting gift was an insurance policy left to his widow, which represents the come up on many levels. Seeing this money as an opportunity to seize his destiny, Walter comes into conflict with his family, his friends, his father’s legacy, and eventually his very soul in an attempt to seize achieve the life he’s always wanted.

Walter eventually finds himself at odds with his family at a point where it just doesn’t seem it can get any worse, and makes mistakes along the way that but with the love of family we find redemption and Walter’s journey is both griping and resonant as a Black man even today.

The production itself is an adaptation from the Broadway play from 2004 starring most of the same cast. The television movie allows you to really look into the world and lives of the Lees in a way that the play just physically can’t. It also happened to be the very first television movie ever premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The fact that this work features a predominantly Black cast is reason enough to watch. But there’s so much more.

Incredibly layered and rich performances are delivered by all involved, in particular Ms. McDonald, who just blows her role out of the water with serenity, grace, pain, and perseverance. Rashaad, who won the Tony for leading female (the first for an African-American) also delivers a command performance, full of love, support and genuine, hardworking, righteous matriarchal common sense that is a much different kind of superwoman when paired against her Claire Huxtable.

The centerpiece of this work of course is the much heralded Combs, who despite being a novice actor, does yeoman work as the central character, emoting joy and pain and impressive emotional range. When you see the movie you will see why Combs has such an affinity with Walter Lee who is a bit of a dreamer and a hustler like Diddy himself. He brings life to this role and a relevance to today’s market that will surely attract younger viewers to this timeless tale.

It’s a lesson in love and a journey that you should all share with you family together. February 25th, 2008 is when it will premiere on ABC. No excuses. No tickets to buy. No dates to make. You should watch this and see this ensemble cast give you their heart and give each other a collective superior performance. Do yourselves a favor. Do your children a favor, and introduce this story to this generation.

Much love to Lorraine Hansberry, who wrote this story as a Black woman at the age of 27 during a time when both Blacks and women were more seen rather than heard. And to Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier who brought these characters to life over 40 years ago. Shout to Ciroc for the access, and finally to Ms. Audra McDonald who turned an afternoon screening to a gripping, emotional experience.