After many, many viewings of this movie’s TV ads with Lizzo wailing “Cuz I love youuuu” in the background, #ThePhotograph is finally in theaters. The movie stars Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield as Mae and Michael. Michael is a journalist researching a story in New Orleans. We are introduced to him interviewing a man named Isaac and he is captivated by a photograph of a woman Isaac was involved with and who he tells Michael he had to let go.
The woman is Christina, a well known photographer who happens to be Mae’s mom. Mae is a museum curator and the two meet when Michael goes to find Christina’s photos. He is captivated by her, sparks fly, the two hit it off and try to start something and that’s when the plot comes between them.
Now, I went in thinking this was a straight rom-com. What I did not know was that there is another backstory involving Mae’s mother as the movie does time hops between present day and the past. And this is perhaps what hinders the movie. Not being able to choose if it wanted to be a serious drama or a rom com.
For one, the “twist” was so obvious that you figure it out from the beginning. One minute you are feeling cheesy about the blossoming love story between Mae and Michael and next you are thrust into the chaos that Christina was feeling.
We often criticize black movies for not having enough substance or just poorly done a la Tyler Perry so I am torn with this because I do think the idea was meaty enough and it was produced well. But as mentioned earlier, I think the indecisiveness on whether it was a drama or rom com kinda added unnecessary weight to the movie and made it drag at some points. . At some point, I got If Beale Street Could Talk vibes (which I loved), but honestly it could just be the much used jazz music in the background. It almost was like it was meant to tell us how seriously to take the movie. The movie lagged a bit at some point and I had questions on a few time line holes. I won’t talk about how young Mae looked biracial but I guess she grew up to be chocolate skinned 😀
On the bright side, Issa and Lakeith had an abundance of chemistry. Lakeith and Chante Adams (who plays Christina and who I have never heard of before) are amazing in this movie. Lil Rel Howrey and Teyonah Parris served well as Michael’s brother and sister in law and Lil Rel as expected was the comedic relief of the movie. I wondered about the casting and if there was any hesistation in casting Y’lan Noel since he plays Daniel on Insecure which also stars Issa Rae.
Overall, I think it was of good production value and I am so glad to see a black half rom-com movie that doesn’t have police trauma involved, directed by a woman and actually received good marketing dollars from the studio, so for that sake I want people to see the movie but if you ask me I’d whisper under the table that it’s probably best consumed on a streaming platform.