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David Lee/Fox

Just Wright

Movies | Queen Latifah delivers a terrific everywoman performance

Issue: "Gulf toil," June 5, 2010

In Just Wright, Queen Latifah plays Leslie Wright as a woman who does not know she is in a romantic comedy. Relatives want her to put more effort into catching a man, but level-headed Leslie compulsively diffuses relationship tension-romantic or otherwise-and ends up becoming every man's "homegirl" instead of his girlfriend.

Latifah, who also produced the film, described it in the press as a "Cinderella story," but the description only applies to the difference in the couple's incomes. Scott McKnight (played by Common) is an NBA star. He leads a flashy life but is also-in Leslie's words-a "sweetie pie." Leslie, meanwhile, is a physical therapist, drives a car that doesn't stop so much as roll to a halt, and just bought a fixer-upper house.

Although Leslie meets Scott first, her god-sister Morgan (Paula Patton) manipulates her way into his charmed life. For a time, Scott and Leslie's romance is cushioned by media attention and brand-name shopping.

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Then Scott injures his knee during a game. While Morgan turns to "retail therapy," Scott needs physical therapy. "For better or for worse" becomes a serious question and Scott, of course, has the opportunity to see Leslie at her best: working hard in real life.

Latifah delivers a terrific everywoman performance. She is believable down to the details-her character wears sensible white shoes, turns to work when she's emotional, and is serious about her food-but her distinctiveness prevents her from disappearing into her character. It's easy to believe that Leslie is a Jersey Nets basketball fan; less so to believe she can't sing when she and Scott are plucking away at a piano.

The romance in this movie does not surpass its genre, but the romantic roadblocks are character-as in moral fiber-and making the right choices despite others' poor decisions. As a result, the romance feels grounded, if somewhat dry. Still, sometimes dry can be a good thing; mild language and implied sleeping arrangements make this a clean PG film.

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