By Olu Alemoru, Staff Writer
“Baggage Claim,” prolific theater and nascent filmmaker David E. Talbert’s homage to the classic Hollywood screwball comedy features a more than attractive ensemble Black cast, but I think it could done with a little more satirical bite to elevate it from its glossy Essence love story.
Based on Talbert’s 2003 novel, it stars Paula Patton (Montana Moore) as a lovelorn flight attendant, who takes the frantic step of trying to find a husband in 30 days after her younger sister Sheree (Lauren London) announces her engagement to the delight of Moore’s over-bearing, five-time married mother Catherine (Jennifer Lewis).
The movie also stars a cadre of bad and good would-be suitors, including Boris Kodjoe, Taye Diggs, Trey Songz, Djimon Hounsou and Derek Luke. Meanwhile, Moore is aided and abetted in her quest by the scene-stealing double act of Jill Scott (Gail Best) and Adam Brody (Sam), as co-workers and buxom man-eater.
Ironically, Patton who seems to be having her own real-life romantic troubles with the alleged cheating of hubby Robin Thicke, recently joined Talbert and the rest of the cast to talk about the film.
How did the movie come about and your roles therein?
Talbert: A Fox Searchlight senior executive was at the first book signing and said we’ve got to make this movie. I met Paula when I was finishing ‘First Sunday’ [in 2008] and I knew she was Montana; she was so bubbly and light. This a dream cast for me, I wanted to get the brightest and the best that were available. Derek is also terrific, he has that everyman quality; guys like him and women want to be with him.
Patton: I read the screenplay when I was making “Just Wright” with Queen Latifah. I laughed out loud and brought my husband and best friend to read along. It’s a rare thing for a Black woman to be the lead of a romantic comedy. I met David and things didn’t happen; I had my son and did some other films. They called me back and said David wants to do the film with you and I jumped for joy. I was just so thrilled; it was a passion project for both of us.
Scott: It seemed like it would be a lot of fun, I’ve played characters that wear fat suits and have a lot of emotional baggage, but Gail is really carefree and a little loose. When I read the script David and me came up with a lot of ideas of what she was going to look like. The first one was lots of cleavage; push ‘em to the roof.
Luke: I was sent a different role, but I connected with William. [My career] has given me a platform to talk to men from every suburb and hood. Men of color and Latin men are very vulnerable. I look at the inspiration of the Sydney Poitiers and Harry Belafonte’s; their generation left a mark.
What would you like people to take away from the film?
Patton: People are very tough on women. It’s not enough to have a successful career, you have to volunteer, take care of all your nieces and nephews, but if you don’t have a man or a child none of that matters. Men don’t go up against that. We all want love, right? Novels are written about it, wars are started over it and songs are composed about it. It’s amazing if you find the right person, but if you’re marrying someone just to fit in [it probably won’t work.] That’s why there is so much divorce.
Tallbert: I’ve been in love with a beautiful woman [film’s executive producer Lyn Sisson-Talbert] for 15 years so I didn’t write this as a fantasy. I want her [Montana] to give hope to other women — and men. I don’t just believe that true love can exist. I know it does.
Scott: It’s a tough one. I married my best friend; we were best friends for two years before we ever kissed and 12 years later we were divorced. I still like him; that’s my dude, but he’s not my husband. There’s a line in the film that is really great: ‘be with someone, not anyone.’ I notice a lot of folks that will find a person to be with because they don’t want to be alone. But that’s not their one.
Jill Scott, left, Adam Brody and Paula Patton. Fox Seachlight Pictures