What Men Want

WHAT MEN WANT

What Men Want takes the 2000 movie What Women Want and casts it with black lead actors, moves it from Chicago to Atlanta and rides with an R rating. (The Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt romcom was PG-13.) The R is mainly for language but there’s also a bit of sex. However the sex is comedic, not erotic.

Taraji P. Henson as sports agent Ali Davis has tons of charisma. And talent. Her smile lights up the screen. Richard Roundtree of Shaft fame plays her dad. Tracy Morgan shows no signs of damage from the wreck a few years back that nearly killed him. Morgan plays the father of a college basketball star who the agency is trying to sign.

Ali’s romantic interest is bartender Will (Aldis Hodge). In a well-worn Hallmark Channel trope, he is a single dad, a widower with a cute kid.

Ali has a group of girlfriends (Phoebe Robinson, Wendy McClendon-Covey and Tamala Jones) who hire a psychic (Erykah Badu) for a party. The seer offers Ali a cup of tea, which Ali thinks is the cause of her new ability to read men’s minds. Ali’s friends are key figures in a wedding ceremony where Ali can’t keep her thoughts to herself. (Badu returns for a coda during the film’s closing credits.)

What Men Want plays for laughs but it is also a story of a black woman trying to achieve success in a man’s (mainly white guys) world. A script that with a few more laughs might’ve made What Me Want a slam-dunk smash. It’s a fun film but one that maybe should’ve been just a bit funnier.

As the setting is a sports agency, a handful of sports personalities have cameos: Shaq, Grant Hill, Mark Cuban, Adam Silver and Devonta Freeman. Also in the cast are Max Greenfield and Jason Jones as Ali’s agency co-workers.

 

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The Sessions

Is it okay to laugh at a handicapped guy?  In this case, yes. Mark O’Brien has a wicked sense of humor. He would appreciate your laughter.

John Hawkes is emerging as a brilliant actor, although most folks don’t know him. He received an Oscar nomination in 2010 for his work in “Winter’s Bone” and will likely get another for his portrayal of real life character Mark O’Brien in “The Sessions.”

O’Brien was stricken by polio as a child. As an adult, he is in an iron lung for several hours each day. He hires caregivers who help him participate in life. He attends the University of California in Berkley. He is a virgin.

O’Brien hires a sexual surrogate, played by Helen Hunt, to introduce him to the ways of sex. Their sessions, which contain graphic nudity, are often funny and sometimes touching (pun intended). Despite the nature of these scenes, they are neither shocking nor erotic.

Between their therapy sessions, O’Brien seeks counsel from his priest, played by William H. Macy. The priest sanctions the liaisons and listens as O’Brien relates his experiences.

As the story continues, O’Brien develops affection for Hunt’s character. She, however, is married and keeps things professional. Mostly.

Because O’Brien is an intelligent man with that sharp sense of humor, we don’t feel as sad for him as we might for others with a similar handicap. He is one of the most interesting real life characters depicted onscreen in some time. Hawkes brings him to life beautifully.

“The Sessions” will not be a big box office hit and may not be shown beyond the artsier movie houses. But, for grownups, this movie delivers the sensitive telling of a sweet story and strong performances from the trio of lead actors.