First off, what does Just Wright mean? Yeah, sure, the protagonist’s name is Leslie Wright, and she is destined — hardly a spoiler! — to eventually be seen as “just right” in the eyes of the male love interest, once he can see past her sparkling personality, luscious body, and outrageous mojo to get to the gorgeous woman “hidden” inside. But stlll, what does Just Wright actually mean?
It means nothing. It’s wordplay that thinks it’s clever but simply makes you want to cringe. It’s insulting to the audience and irrelevant to the movie… or it would be, if the title didn’t just sort of sit there, hoping that you’ll find it charming without having to do any the work required to actually charm you.
In that sense, then, it’s totally appropriate to this tepid, almost conflict-free romantic drama. At least, at the same time that it’s not taking any chances whatsoever, Just Wright is almost entirely inoffensive. Some might find that offensive in itself — I, for one, would prefer that if a movie can’t be brilliant and witty, that it be aggressively obnoxious, because then while I might hate it, at least it will have provoked some reaction in me. Just Wright just lolls about being nice and predictable and hoping not to make waves, which in succeeds wildly at: It made me feel almost nothing, beyond reigniting my fervent desire for someone in Hollywood to see what a treasure Queen Latifah is and turn her into the star she deserves to be.
I can’t hate Just Wright, then, but that don’t mean I like it, either.
It’s hard to tell whether screenwriter Michael Elliot (Brown Sugar) and director Sanaa Hamri (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) see their heroine, Leslie Wright (Queen Latifah: Valentine’s Day, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs) — independent single gal, succesful physical therapist, owner of a fixer-upper home she is cheerfully fixer-uppering — as an ordinary woman or as some sort of freak. Her mother (a woefully miscast Pam Grier: John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, Jackie Brown) literally has nothing to say that does not involve her nagging her daughter about snagging a man, but Leslie is refreshingly realistic about her romantic life: she would like a special someone in her life, but she’s not willing to compromise who she is in order to get him. She’s not skinny and shallow like her friend Morgan (Paula Patton: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Swing Vote), who says things like “I don’t eat in public” and calls her calculated grasping for a wealthy husband her “job.” (Just to be clear: There’s nothing wrong with being skinny, unless you have to refrain from eating in public to achieve that.) I’m going to pretend, because it makes me feel a little better, that Just Wright isn’t suggesting that there’s anything wrong with Leslie, but is instead offering us the plight of the grown-up gal who longs for a genuine relationship with an equal who loves who she actually is, not who fashion magazines tell her she’s supposed to be.
But then… Why does she fall for NBA player Scott McKnight (Common: Date Night, Terminator Salvation)? Silly confluences of events put this handsome athlete in the paths of both Leslie and Morgan, and of course he falls for Morgan to the point at which he’s about to propose marriage after only a few months of dating. Except Morgan is a materialistic, manipulative brat with absolutely no personality of her own, and how could Scott McKnight not see that? My first impression of rapper Common as an actor in the most prominent role I’ve ever seen him in is that he’s absolutely terrible: cute, but awful at conveying the slightest hint of realistic emotion or thought. But now that I reconsider, perhaps Scott is supposed to be a complete dolt. Maybe Scott simply is incapable of seeing past a pretty face and a superficial demeanor even after months and months in Morgan’s giddy, insincere presence.
In which case he’s an idiot who doesn’t deserve Leslie and is not worthy of her.
Maybe that’s the sad message of Just Wright: any adult woman who is holding out for an actual adult man is fooling herself, and will eventually settle for an inoffensively stupid overgrown child?
Oh, man, that’s depressing.