Movie Review

Soul Food

Reviewed by: Chris Utley
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
115 min.
R

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

Viewer Comments
The Bible lets us know that “faith cometh by hearing.” From my life experiences, this principle applies to the effectiveness of both biblical/spiritual and secular/worldly means of communication. I say this in light of the message (whether intentional or not) that is portrayed in the movie “Soul Food.” I am afraid that people, such as myself, and many others, are so desperate to see a positive movie (Black or White) that we feel comfortable taking our children to see, that we allow ourselves to compromise on what we KNOW is right. Even companies like Disney has not held to its' wholesome values. With “Soul Food,” I see a genuine attempt to accommodate socially conscious Black folks (because Whites still don’t recognize Black films unless its “crossing over”). Folks who listen to Tom Joyner (syndicated DJ), church folks who are skipping the afternoon Sunday worship services, and the like. No matter how we want to slice it, under all of that fried chicken, pork and corn bread, the pornography, that’s right, I said it, the pornography in this film is—number one, not necessary and number two, unhealthy for anyone who is trying to live a positive life style, especially for Believers, and especially singles.

We are affected by what is communicated to us, whether positive or negative. That is why God reminds us to guard our hearts (minds) in the book of Proverbs. The old saying applies, “you are what you eat,” garbage in, garbage out.” Let us not be fooled. Lets not go to sleep. Are we under the impression that a good movie/a good time cannot be had without profanity. I/we know better. Do we have the unawareness of Biblical true and Spirit awareness to give this film a positive rating? Let us resurrect our Sunday School lessons, Bible study teachings and sermons to realize (we are holy nation and a peculiar people) that this movie comes close to what we need, but is still falling short—so lets not support it. We love you Babyface, but try again my brother.
—Ken Brown
I enjoyed watching the movie, however, like other Christians the sex scene offended me. The reference to genitials offended me. The other thing that bothered me is how preachers are portrayed in movies (“Comimg to America”). I know several preachers and have never seen one who acted the way the “reverend” did in the movie. I write scripts and hope to have some of my writings produced into movies that anyone can see—especially Christians—and feel good about it.
—M.G.S. Bush
I can understand that the film has many merits, but because of the sexual content, I refuse to watch it. As Christians, the Bible tells us to avoid all sinful pleasures of the flesh. My “flesh” would love to indulge in such scenes, but it is detrimental to my spiritual health since it would instantly evoke lustful thoughts in my head. Answer the following question: Is it o.k. to knowingly expose yourself to sinful activity (viewing sexual scenes) if that activity in intertwined with noble activities? It is not—to do so is compromising. I only wish the film was without sexual content so I could view it.
—Joe Madonna, Age 31 (A Promise Keeper)
Soul Food, constant tear jurker, It reminded of my own “Big Mom.” What a wonderful memory, we let go of our family’s sunday dinners. Maybe after soul food, we can get them back. I am so thank of a more accurate portrayal of African American’s we have a very rich heritage that should be told. Thank you for the opportunity to communicated these views.
—Karen D. Pulliam, age 37
I know this isn’t a ballot box, but I wanted to voice my support, too. “Soul Food” is one of the most pro-family movies I’ve seen all year.
—Brian, age 24
I reviewed this film for this site and my original Moral Rating of 2½ was rejected because of the adult content of the film. I understand that portion, but beneath all that is a beautiful story about love and the strength of family that any Christian would be proud of. I am hearing reports of families gathering back together again for similiar Sunday dinners to heal old wounds as a result of this film. THAT’S MINISTRY… something the art of film needs to be doing more of.
—Christopher Utley, age 24
…This movie featured important christian morals that all families can learn from.
bryan, age 19
I feel that this was an excellent movie for the all generations, regardless of “uncomfortable” content. The “unconfortable” content is LIFE! Sometimes, life is not “clean”. The scenes portrayed in this movie, I know for a FACT, touched the lives of everyone who has seen this movie. The traditions portrayed are the traditions of many families across this American nation. I think that “Soulfood” should have received a higher rating than any “1” for the Christian movie scale. It promoted values… values that most of us have either forgotten throughout the generations, or chose not to validate due to pettiness or strife.
—Shali N., age 24