Romcom fizzles instead of sizzles
It’s a pity romcoms aren’t taken seriously as a genre, as if people just don’t give movies without violence or disturbing content the same consideration. It says a great deal about our biases as an audience.
It was with this in mind that I went to the screening of Akin Omotoso’s latest love story, Tell Me Sweet Something.
There were a few things I loved about the movie. Firstly, it’s a love story between two black people (which is not something you see very often on the big screen) and, secondly, it all plays out on the streets of Joburg. Instead of being gritty, dirty or violent, it’s all bright lights, pedalling bikes and fashionable youngsters milling in cafés. Imagine all the cool kids you see milling around Maboneng on a Saturday, and you’ll have an idea of what Tell Me Sweet Something looks like.
Unfortunately, those were the only two things I liked. The film suffered some serious pacing issues, and just felt like there wasn’t enough going on to fill the screen time.
Although lead actress Nomzamo Mbatha was like sunshine to watch, her leading man, Maps Maponyane, was another story. Maps, I’m so sorry, but your acting needs work. His character is a male model who wants to prove he’s more than just a pretty face – basically, he plays himself. And he doesn’t even pull that off. The wooden delivery of lines was cringeworthy.
While Thembi Seete is a comic talent with acting chops, her character – a pink-haired bookshop assistant – was too much like so many other airhead assistants I’ve seen before in countless Hollywood movies.
There were some clever cultural observations by Omotoso I appreciated. One is where Maps stands in front of two white talent agents at a model casting, dressed only in a leotard and headdress, while they fawn over his “chocolate skin”. It’s such a clever yet funny look at the fetishisation of black men. I really wish there were more of these insider gems in the film.
I am glad to see South African cinema (that isn’t Afrikaans) taking a turn towards more light-hearted fare, but this isn’t the movie that will cement the genre. Tell Me Sweet Something comes off as telling us, well, nothing.
LOVESTRUCK Nomzamo Mbatha was like sunshine, but Maps Maponyane’s acting needs a little work