An impressive debut from writer/director Malcolm D. Lee, The Best Man is a surprisingly complex comedy about karmic retribution. Eschewing the minstrel show shuck-and-jivin’ and stepnfetchin’ of the recent spate of films targeted for black audiences, the characters in The Best Man are successful middle-class folk with good and not-so-good traits, appropriately exaggerated for comedy sake.
Harper (Taye Diggs) is a novelist whose best chapters are thinly-veiled episodes from his own life. On the brink of publication, he’s asked to be the best man in his buddy, Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding. The thing is, Harper had a sexual tete-a-tete with Lance’s betrothed, Mia (Monica Calhoun). To add insult to injury, his little peccadillo with Mia has made for one terrific chapter in his forthcoming novel.
Jordan (Nia Long), a bridesmaid and TV journalist with a penchant for digging in the dirt and airing dirty laundry, apparently has an axe to grind with Harper, whose unflattering portraits of friends and family will certainly not endear him to anyone. Fearing that Jordan, who received an advance copy of the book, is going to let the cat out of the bag, Harper hilariously tries to keep her silenced.
With wonderful performances from Diggs, Long, Chestnut and Calhoun, Malcolm D. Lee’s freshman effort seems as exciting and new in 1999 as producer Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It was in 1984. The Best Man is about real people in real situations, played for the truth in comedy, rather than the wacky gag or kneeslappin’ bit. It’s a movie that, thankfully, doesn’t traffic in stereotypes.