Here is a definition of star power. An actor who can take a script that is completely predictable and make it seem if not exactly fresh, still somehow charming. So it is with Queen Latifah in JUST WRIGHT, a by-the-numbers romance that pits an everywoman with a heart of gold against a diva who is a digger of that mineral. The specifics are just so much window dressing, its Latifah as that everywoman who makes the audience believe the emotional journey her character is taking, and who is magnetic enough to make the audience want to come along in order to be there for the final triumphant act. She makes you want to cheer for her.
The odds are certainly against that character, Leslie Wright, a physical therapist with comfortable life, a new house in need of fixing up, and a god-sister, Morgan (Paula Patton) whose game plan is to bag an NBA player. Not that Morgan likes basketball. What she likes is the lifestyle that the players wives enjoy. Leslie, on the other hand, is a lifelong and die-hard b-ball fan with her fandom centered on her beloved local team, the New Jersey Nets. When she goes to a game, its in team gear. When Morgan goes with her, its in an outfit that says Hi, sailor. In one of those twists of fate that populate the romantic comedy/drama, its Leslie who bumps into the Nets star player, Scott McKnight (Common), and hits it off with him in a perfectly platonic way. When Scott meets Morgan, its more earthy.
In another one of those twists of fate, Scott injures his knee, he and Morgan grow apart, and Leslie moves into Scotts mansion to render full-time therapy to help him heal before for the play-offs. With so much in common, and the laws of attraction being what they are, things begin to spark, at least for Leslie.
The casting is perfect. Common is more than just a hunky bite of man candy, hes also a gentle man and a gentleman whose common sense is clouded with a hormonal rush. Patton is show-stopping gorgeous and effortlessly flirtatious with a calculating edge lurking just far enough beneath the glossy surface to make it obvious why Scott, a man who is wise to the wiles of women with dollar signs in their eyes, could fall for her, even if she hasnt fooled his mother (Phyllicia Rashad). If Morgan is the quintessential woman without a heart or a conscience, Latifah is the polar opposite, fully inhabiting every moment Leslie goes through, including accepting with good grace that the man of her dreams is not interested in her romantically. In a wonderfully played moment early on, Leslies mother (Pam Grier), and old school coquette, is deciding to whom she should lend a pair of lucky diamond earrings, the ones she herself was wearing when she met her husband. When she hands them off to Morgan instead of Leslie, Latifahs smile isnt one of resentment or even surprise. Its an acceptance that is wistful without being self-pitying.
Thats the key, she has made of Leslie an accomplished, strong woman who is happy with herself, which makes her irresistible. If Scott, or the blind date that starts the movie and provides her first disappointment, cant see it, Latifah leaves no doubt who is the loser.
JUST WRIGHT blends Terrence Blanchard, a slew of NBA stars, and a story that makes it clear getting the guy is a treat, getting a life is the responsibility, and the joy, of every mans and every womans life.