It seemed like I had the perfect date night planned. The local arts center was holding a Black American film festival, and the showing of “The Oversimplification of Her Beauty” was the only movie that fit my busy schedule.
As anyone does with a new movie, I googled it. What I found was not much at all. Although, the Wikipedia page said it had won some obscure award for independently produced films. Also, the film’s main dude – it’s producer, director, and primary actor – Terrance Nance, was just as obscure as his award. In fact, one could argue that the height of his career involves brief work as director of the flop Space Jam remake, where he was eventually replaced.
Still, I thought I found a hidden gem. The reviews used SAT words like quixotic and effervescent. Plus, it was reviewed in The New York Times. I was definitely under the impression that my choice to watch this film would make me seem smart, artistic, deep, and worldly.
From the title and Google images featuring black woman unapologetically rocking their natural hair, I made the assumption that the film was about American society’s objectification of colored women; thus, I was expecting this film to give my partner another taste of the black struggle. No, I did not read the synopsis, for I believed that would spoil the surprises within this quixotic masterpiece (did I use that word right?).
When we arrived ten minutes late, as we time-conscious people do, we noticed we were the youngest patrons by at least 30 years. Hmmm… Still, we settled in excitedly to watch the movie.
The film began with a woe is me tale about a young guy in New York City who was dropped by a three-week situationship. As the man traveled from work, to school, to bed, and repeated, the situationship was painted as his solace from the stressors of his busy, low-income life. While I could not relate to the protagonists’ despair as it often came off histrionic, I was moved by the film’s narration. The narration was spoken like a poem, and the narrator would conclude would recurringly state “how would you feel.”
As the film progressed, it began to incorporate graphic art similar to the kaleidoscope style presented on adult-swim. Moreover, the added music, featuring artists like instrumental hip-hop artists like Flying Lotus, triggered my early 2010s nostalgia.
Now this was only 30 minutes in, and unfortunately, we had reached the height of this movie.
We were then pulled into the creator’s obsession with his romantic interests. We learned of the intimate details of each of his relationships, far more than we cared to. At first, what was an odd, yet mildly endearing obsession with a 3-week relationship transformed into an indulgent self-reflection that highlighted the protagonists’ narcissistic traits.
At 45 minutes, my sympathy for the protagonists was all used up, and I no longer cared to hear, over and over how sad it is for the protagonists to be unable to maintain the desire of his partners. It was also clear at this point that the situationship did not blow him away and initiate his obsessive behavior. Instead, the situation was just another item in his grocery list of obsessions. As each part was enumerated from part 1: A, to part 3: G (no this is not a hyperbole), I become more and more restless. Eventually, I had forgotten that I was on a voluntary date, and I was instead wondering when my timeout-like boredom torture would end.
Finally, the movie ended, and we both hurriedly rushed out of the theater before the discussion began. As we began to walk back home, my partner broke the ice and asked, “What did you think?” Her eyes showed a sense of carefulness, resembling a zookeeper approaching a crocodile. We are an interracial couple, so I am sure she was worried that she would offend me if she did anything but praise my date choice. Rightfully so, I am the man who made her watch 12 Years a Slave and soon plans to make Roots the subject of so many future movie-nights.
However comma (yeah, I spelled it out) this movie was not about Blackness nor Afro-futurism, it was about Terrance Nance’s romance that just so happened to involve Black people, and like most romance, it is not worth a 90-minute feature film.
I answered my partner’s question with “I’m so glad it’s over.” She relaxed and we walked home hand-in-hand while ranting over the repetitive torture we experienced. No one else would take their girlfriend to see that film, and I do not recommend anyone do so in the future. For that reason, maybe it was worthwhile after all. We were now able to reminisce and bond over our own uniquely shared trauma.
Written by Dylan Hughes – Writing Center Tutor – Class of 2023