Today marks the 20th anniversary of Love Jones, arguably one of the most popular Black romantic comedies, like ever. While the film didn’t break any box office records—it made less than $13 million in theaters—it became a classic because of its layered depiction of Black love, and life.
The story, which centered around the drama-filled dating escapades of a struggling photographer, Nina (Nia Long), and budding author Darius (Larenz Tate), wasn’t just about love, sex or even romance. It showcased the complicated nature of all life choices, from friendships and marriage to career and personal finance. Love Jones gave audiences a wide view of what it meant to be young and figuring things out. And while being Black and Black culture were such a huge and celebrated parts of the flick—from the nods to the then very popular spoken word scene to the jazz club backdrops and Black art—it’s greatest feat was giving a full-bodied view of Black life and all of our identities.
The flick didn’t rest on stereotypes, it spoke to who Black folks are as simply people and ignited conversations about loyalty, happiness and choice. The great thing about art is that everyone who experiences it can walk away with something different.
Here are just a few jewels in the film that attest to why folks still sing its praises 20 years later:
The beauty of falling in love. The film highlights that universally scary, yet exciting, experience of allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to connect with someone—even when the timing and circumstances aren’t perfect. It captures both the sincerity and intensity of the feelings folks try—but typically fail—to manage when opening up to someone.
The work it takes to stay with the one you love. We also see the very real effort it takes to sustain a relationship. Happily ever after fantasies typically lack the boring, laborious or practical elements required for daily life, and figuring out how to reconcile the two can be a challenge.
Mistakes don’t mean the end—take the risk. The characters in Love Jones aren’t perfect. They cheat. They lie. They leave. But they also maintain a fierce stance that it is important to go after what they want, whether it’s a job or a specific partner, and they were willing to leap and deal with the consequences.
Happily ever after may come later.What happens when you get with someone out of convenience? How do you determine whether you should go back to your partner after infidelity? Can you forgive an ex for dating a friend? In each of these real life situations we see that complications that occur on a person’s journey and are reminded that setbacks do not mean you won’t get to your happy.
Follow your passion. Love Jones does an excellent job of showing both the challenges and fulfillment that comes from taking a “no holds barred” approach to your happily ever after. Both Darius and Nina take the leaps of faith to get what they want personally, but also professionally (remember, he quits his job to write a book and she moves to pursue her career). There is something powerful about going for what you want in every aspect of your life.
S. Tia Brown is the lifestyle director of EBONY magazine and a licensed therapist. She also happens to believe in love and the promise that it gives. Follow her at @tiabrowntalks.