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    Rocky Road

    Schlocky road

    "Rocky Road" is too simplistic and cliche-ridden to contribute meaningfully to a discussion about race relations.


    There's not much to recommend the Los Angeles-set race-relations film "Rocky Road." Cliched, heavy-handed, and simplistic, it could work well as a teaching aid in an elementary school — where this sort of broad, moralistic storytelling plays well — but that's about it.

    Written and directed by: Geoff Cunningham.
    Cast: Nicole A. Smith, Will Wallace, Natasha Pearce, Wolf Muser, Bryan Handy, Valeri Ross, Daryl Dismond, Robert Wisdom, James Locascio, Royce Herron, Michelle Merserau, Reshidatu Foster, Nina Womack, J.R. Starr, Ravell Dameron, Sarah Scott Davis, Bernadette L. Clarke.
    Talia, who's black, and John, who's white, are in love. They are a strenuously evolved couple. He's a sports-loving guy who loves his mom and has a soft spot for social causes — he temps for a group seeking "health insurance for all." And she's a well-dressed young professional.

    Naturally, their families disapprove of their relationship. John's racist dad is a cop who indulges in random acts of police brutality when he encounters African Americans. In an unsurprising coincidence, he roughs up a young black man who turns out to be Talia's sister's boyfriend. When this lout meets Talia, he grills her with racist-stereotype questions — whether or not her parents are still together, work for a living, and so on.

    Talia's sister, Tina, and Tina's boyfriend, Dwayne, meanwhile, admonish her for choosing a white beau and conspire for her to go out with an old high school crush who happens to be black, and, in the kind of over-ripeness that is typical of this film, handsome, athletic, thoughtful, and a volunteer for a Boys Club-like group.

    But the simplemindedness in this film has less to do with the characters and plot than with screenwriter, producer, and director Geoff Cunningham. His reductive script, based on his own experiences as one half of an interracial couple (he's married to the film's star, Nicole Smith), renders the entire movie flat and generic. And the fact that the actors and the cinematography have the bland look of one of those church-funded movies about the right thing to do means "Rocky Road" doesn't even possess superficial appeal.

    The movie's lapses in logic don't help its noble cause, either. In one scene, Tina happens to come to Talia's house to tell her that Dwayne was attacked by a cop on the same day that John has begun moving in to Talia's apartment. She says Dwayne was attacked, and Talia says, "Oh my God, is he okay?" Tina answers yes, and that's the extent of their discussion.

    That would never happen in real life, and it certainly shouldn't happen in a movie that aims to enlighten. Dwayne's attack was a significant event as well as an opportunity to reveal the women's likely differing views of the police and of violence.

    It's impossible to say what "Rocky Road" might have been. It brings so little that's new to the complex discussion of racism, and it regurgitates all that's well-established in an uninspired way. Honorable as Cunningham's intentions may have been, it's actually more discouraging to see this film than it is to ponder why we all can't just get along.

    SEPTEMBER 24, 2001

    Reader comments on Rocky Road:

  • film underated   from , Feb 5, 2002
  • [no subject]   from Laura Schuhmacher, Apr 1, 2002
  • daryl dismond   from valerie petrich, Oct 14, 2002
  • Your Criticism surprises me!   from Lee Kelly, May 4, 2007

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