Reviewed by: Chris Utley
Starring: Vanessa L. Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long / Director: George Tillman, Jr. / Released by: 20th Century Fox
African-American films have been stereotyped in the 1990’s as being a bunch of ghetto fantasy ultra-violent hood movies. That mold has finally been broken with “Soul Food”, a brilliant slice of African-American life by Producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds and Director George Tillman, Jr.
“Soul Food” is the story of three sisters: Teri (Vanessa L. Williams), a successful lawyer with a huge chip on her shoulder and a troubled marriage, Maxine (Vivica A. Fox), the strong willed sister with a successful marriage and two children… with one on the way, and Bird (Nia Long), the youngest sister who owns her own hair salon and is adjusting to her new marriage to Lem (Mekhi Phifer), an ex-con struggling to get back on his feet. The three sisters and their families gather every Sunday around the kitchen table of their very own Mother Joe (Irma P. Hall) where they fellowship and dine to soul food items such as fried chicken, fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, greens, cornbread… makes you hungry just thinking about it!
The narrator of the story is Maxine’s son Ahmad (Brandon Hammond, Jr.) who is Mother Joe’s favorite grandchild and possesor of her strength. When illness forces Mother Joe to be hospitalized, the three sisters lives fall into a tailspin as they deal with their lives… as well as their mother’s life… unraveling.
“Soul Food” contains intense and powerful scenes which contain a large amount of very strong language. It will be offensive to most Christians, but it is so realistically portrayed that the intensity of the scenes may override the usage of the profanity. Many characters also portray very negative attitudes. There are two sexual scenes shown in the film… one between husband and wife and one with a husband cheating on his wife (this scene in particular is graphic). Various other sexual situations are also prominent throughout this film. On a positive note, Director George Tillman does not sugar-coat the sin… the consequences of the sin are displayed in the film for God’s glory.
And Christ is glorified in a very strong prayer by our narrator Ahmad near the end of the movie. I was proud to see that… as well as this movie. “Soul Food” is one of the greatest African-American films of the 90's… if not ever! It’s a realistic and beautiful portrayal of family life that will hit each viewer close to home…
Year of Release—1997