Love & Basketball

on April 21, 2000 by Annlee Ellingson
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   "Love and Basketball," written and directed with polish that belies her inexperience by Gina Prince-Blythewood, is set in suburbia and follows the basketball careers of next-door neighbors Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) from their pre-teens through the pros, concentrating on Monica's struggle to gain respect in an occupation ordinarily reserved for boys.

   From the first moment they meet at the age of eight or nine, Quincy looks at Monica's long hair in disgust, declaring that girls can't play basketball. When she's about to prove him wrong, he shoves her to the ground, causing a scar that she'll bear for the rest of her life. In high school, the couple has grown apart. Quincy revels in the attention showered on male athletes with the promise to turn pro, while Monica is regarded as an anomaly, a girl too aggressive for her own good.

   They rekindle their relationship just before college, where Quincy continues to attract crowds both on and off the court. Monica, meanwhile, struggles to prove her worth to her catty teammates, eventually replacing the starting guard after a season-ending injury. School and family pressures get the best of them, however, and they split when Quincy turns pro after his freshman year, not reuniting until years later when Monica's playing in Europe (the WNBA had yet to be formed) and Quincy's engaged to a airline stewardess.

   With its beautiful stars, posh settings and clearly delineated lines between men and women, viewers will comfortably swallow "Love and Basketball's" feminist undertones--that the same attitudes on the court are considered aggressive in men and vulgar in women; that while male athletes are viewed mini-gods, females are seen as freaks; and that women can have both a family and a career. Additionally, the film must be applauded for setting a positive example for teens, especially when it comes to safe sex. Starring Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodard, Debbi Morgan, Harry J. Lennix and Dennis Haysbert. Directed and written by Gina Prince-Blythewood. Produced by Spike Lee and Sam Kitt. A New Line release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for sexuality and language. Running time: 120 min

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