Jumping the Broom
Video: MPEG4-AVC 1080P
DTS-MA 5.1 Audio English / French
Jumping the Broom Story 4 / 5
I've often thought that wedding movies are darn hard to make. Although they come out frequently, the basic premise remains the same: couple gets engaged, couple experiences trouble, couple ends up realizing that they are still in love and gets married. It's a plot that has been used repeatedly and often very poorly. There have been some truly bad attempts to change the plot up and try to make it work, but every so often, a writer adds just the right amount of ornaments that a film truly comes together.
To really talk about "Jumping The Broom" some backstory may be in order. As far as history knows going back to the 14th century, many tribes of Africa as well as Gypsies celebrated their wedding vows by jumping over at first a fruit bearing branch. Then, the concept was simple: as the tree or plant life bears fruit, so do we hope this couple does as they move from being kids to people who will take a place as the parents within the community.
But after the rise of slavery, the tradition was modified. Because slaves were not allowed to marry, private ceremonies were held, and the broom quickly replaced the branch and couples would make the jump to signal to others that they were committed to each other; and that they would raise their children as long as they could, pardoning the travesties of slavery.
Shortly after the civil war, this tradition born out of necessity really hit a brick wall. In the north, it was widely rejected because people had thought that it was "calling down bad omens", a bit too much like celebrating the days of slavery, and it was widely rejected. The tradition lived on in the deepest of the south, mostly Louisiana and Mississippi, where it had taken on different cultural meanings. It experienced a bit of a comeback in the 1920s, and while definitely not addressed here, the gesture was also used by gay & lesbian couples after civil unions as a means of protest.
But the tradition in the north of "Jumping the Broom" was almost completely wiped out until... Roots. When Haley's Roots hit the TV networks, and showed it as part of the tradition, many younger people at the time viewed it as a way to honor their heritage. The feelings from reformation that it was somehow celebrating slavery were gone, and it was viewed far more as an endorsement of the endurance of the people who were enslaved.
One of the extras on this disc highlights the fact that none of the cast, all African American, were very familiar with the tradition, and only two had been to a wedding where it happened. And both of those weddings? In the south. Not at all surprising.
But the reason that Jumping the Broom makes a good story isn't because of the focus on the ritual, it's because of how deeply attached some of the characters are to the ritual, and what it says about them.
The story begins with Sabrina Watson (Paula Pattson), a young girl from a wealthy background who has just had an experience with "Mr. Wrong". She commits herself to not make that same mistake again, and she promises God that she will remain celibate this time, if only the right man can come along. Enter Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso), a kid who pulled himself up with hard work, and a smart mind, Jason has moved himself into the right jobs, the right people, and all of the right opportunities. After a whirlwind five month relationship, Sabrina's life changes compel Jason to make it official so he doesn't let her go; their whirlwind romance turns into a quickly planned wedding.
Concerns about pregnancy, honor, and family backgrounds are immediate. But the biggest concern is that the two families haven't met. Here, I have to really commend casting. Angela Basset and Loretta Devine are so well cast as mother figures in this film that it is a stunner. Devine's character chaffes at the idea of her son moving on with his life, and her preconceived notions of what this rich family and young girl are doing to her child. Basset's upbringing is obviously one of an educated, worldly woman who tends to take the attachment to the traditions and beliefs of others are foolish.
This is where I get back to where the tradition came from. The characters so adequately express the two viewpoints; one family who's convinced that such traditions are an important attachment to the past, and another who views it as somewhat gauche.
There are lots of ways this film could have went really wrong. It could have become a Tyler Perry over the top vehicle. It could have become a movie so stepped in cultural lingo that it locks out part of it's audience. But this is a real rarity for me, it's a wedding movie that works. I was surprised at how well the script mixes moments of joy, anger, sorrow and concern and how well the actors pull the script off.
Someone told me before I viewed this months ago that this was the best wedding movie since "My Best Friends Wedding". And they may be right. This is definitely the best wedding oriented film I've seen in a while, and there are some really great moments.
Picture Quality: 5 / 5
Let me say this right now: this is a reference quality disc. This title goes into my "must show" list for how Bluray is supposed to look. Filmed in digital, the picture is noise and ring free, color tons are unbelievably good, and the picture quality is at points jaw dropping. I have often said you have to respect a movie for where it came from and look at how good it looks on Bluray. This title puts my experience in a movie theater to SHAME.
Sony has a long reputation of high quality bluray transfers, and they absolutely do this title justice. Even though I expected high quality from Sony, I was still floored. Absolutely gorgeous.
A big part of that isn't just the quality of the transfer, the high bitrate, it's also about the eye of the cinematographer who could move from incredible scenes of the outdoors - where blades of grass, wind, waves and the sky could shape a scene to interior scenes and close attention to everything from the layout to the expressions of the cast.
Both the transfer and the cinematographer deserve some major credit for how beautiful this title really looks and how gorgeous the sets pop on the screen.
Audio: 5 / 5
No, there aren't any big crashes, sonic booms or major explosions. But the use of a soundtrack here is not just a compliment to the film, it helps make the film come alive. The dialog is crisp and sharp, and the ambient noise fills the room with all of the sounds of the tightness of the city to the home on Martha's Vineyard.
The way music is mixed into this film helps makes the cinematography all that more compelling. It doesn't go overboard to push with big swells, but small moments of music help bring out the beauty in a scene and I found it VERY effective.
Extras: 4 / 5
Audio Commentary: Director and Producers discuss the filming locations, set and costume designs and a few cute stories about the production.
You're Invited: Behind the Scenes (1080P) 23:41. This is a behind the scenes look at the film. A lot of times I find these kind of behind the scenes to be just filler. I was pleasantly surprised. There is a lot of good information here about the scriptwriting process, how they managed to get this film off the ground, casting decisions.
Honoring the tradition of Jumping the Broom: (1080P) 6:27. This is a short clip where they talk to the actors about "Jumping the Broom". I had referenced this above, that only two of the actors had ever been to an actual ceremony where such an event had ever happened; or knew of anyone who had. But I found this extra to be pretty compelling in that they all talked about how traditions - any and all traditions - become such a part of our family heritage that they take on a very personal meaning to each person. The film does a great job with this, and I found the extra to really cover a lot of ground in the short time it had.
Summay: 4.75 / 5
I'd almost give this a perfect, but the extras are a bit slim, though quite good. Some film concepts keep getting recycled because they are either easy to make or because people relate to them. There has been a lot of controversy lately about the portrayal of African American families in film. And some of it is rightly justified. Jumping the Broom, however, definitely doesn't fall into that category. It is a film about African American families from different socio-economic backgrounds, about traditions - but it's also a film about mothers, family and belief.
To be honest, I'm pretty shocked that this film is PG-13. While I really enjoyed this film, a big part of the storyline is so steeped in faith and morality that it's the kind of thing I could see almost any reverend saying "Let's watch a film". It's good to see actors like Angela Davis and Loretta Divine get such juicy lead rolls.
But it's good, wholesome nature, light comedy and love story make this a great date-night film. A strong recommend for your collection.