The family that in less capable hands than “Girlfriends” and “The Game” creator Mara Brock Akil, could be portrayed as broad stereotypes turns out to be a little more complex than first thought. Brooks is an early standout as Mary Jane’s seemingly trifling but hopefully complicated brother. Hardwick is once again called upon to be the bad guy, a place where he’s both comfortable and effective.
Now, the downside.
Writer/producer Akil and her husband director Salim Akil must have decided to throw everything into the kitchen sink to see what would stick with viewers, particularly given the six-month break we’ve already covered. Almost every single issue that Black women face from media slurs to colorism, to infidelity, to teenage pregnancy, to illness, to gay relationships (an interracial gay couple, no less!) to baby hunger to career issues is dealt with in the movie. And there is a particularly silly storyline that any woman as educated as Mary Jane would likely laugh at instead of go along with. Oh and did I mention the scene that any diehard “Sex and the City” fan will recognize that is practically lifted from a popular episode of the show?
Too much of a good thing is not always a bad thing, though. In this first effort, the Akils have at least proven that they can stretch beyond, ahem, putting anyone in a maid’s uniform or a blonde weave. And unlike the disappointing downfall of credible storytelling on “The Game,” “Being Mary Jane” “may yet resonate with viewers who can get past the usual Black woman tropes. There is a tremendous opportunity to show a well-rounded Black woman whose career success doesn’t mean she’s not a mess in other areas. (Just like that other TV show starring a Black woman.) As annoying as those same themes are, they’re popular for a reason. Once the Akils pull in viewers, let’s hope that the storylines expand and grow into a show and a character that evolves along the way.