A Raisin in the Sun Kenny Leon

A Raisin in the Sun Kenny Leon
Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking play gets a handsome but maudlin TV rendering and although it takes the material seriously, it misses all of the historical significance in place of some "universal” emotions that blunt the work’s impact. Set on the south side of Chicago in the ’50s, the film deals with the consequences of a tragic windfall on a black family: though the patriarch has died, his insurance has paid off a $10,000 sum, which could change the lives of his kin. Mother Lena (Philicia Rashad) has to decide whether to invest in the liquor store scheme that consumes her son Walter (Sean Combs) or to find a nobler outlet, all the while juggling pretentious younger daughter Beneatha (Sanaa Lathan) and Walter’s wife Ruth (Audra McDonald). When she does make a decision, it’s not the expected one and it has unforeseen consequences when coupled with Walter’s unreliability. Perhaps time has blunted the shock of seeing this story in a mainstream setting but the work’s where-we-are-now summation of black generations at a pivotal juncture has been watered down by Kenny Leon’s direction. Though very professional and not exactly unpleasurable, he approaches the work as "timeless” (i.e., middlebrow entertainment without historical or political references). Thus while he coaxes some good performances out of the capable cast (save for John Stamos as a cowardly and oppressive white), he somehow manages to make the film a story about a bunch of people instead of the stocktaking it actually was and from which it derived most of its power. Extras include a pompous and high-flown commentary by Leon, and a "making of” featurette that manages to be very respectful while not delving too deeply. (Sony)