Medicine for Melancholy Barry Jenkins

Medicine for Melancholy Barry Jenkins
Acting as a slightly dumbed down, race-driven version of Before Sunrise, with less romantic tension and one-note characters, the dreadfully titled Medicine for Melancholy lacks subtlety and any real purpose but features committed performances from its affable leads. Since the film is essentially a walk through San Francisco the day after Micah (Wyatt Cenac) and Joanne (Tracey Heggins) have a one-night-stand at a house party, their magnetic presence does much to mask the many shortcomings. As Micah defines himself as "black" more so than he does a "man," he responds with disgust after learning that Joanne is shacking up with a white museum curator and running errands for him. Her cheating isn't a concern for him but her latching onto the white life is, given San Francisco's granola battle against gentrification. In this capacity, the film isn't particularly guileful or original, featuring expositional rants and a random insert of an underground political discussion in a bookstore. In these moments, Cenac and Heggins simply cannot save the eye-rolling pedagogy flopping around uncontrollably. It's not that the argument in question is invalid — on the contrary, underneath the glib idealism Jenkins has a point — but in cinematic terms, it's typically better to show rather than tell. On the upside, initial minimalist sensibilities, a washed-out aesthetic and an occasional sense of humour define other winning moments of the film, showing potential for all involved. Included with the DVD release is a trailer, in addition to a 23-minute podcast with director Barry Jenkins at the London Film Festival. Despite the crowd noise, we can make out that Jenkins made the film to prove to himself and his friends that going to film school was worthwhile and elaborates on his intentions, in case we hadn't already figured them out. (E1)