1991, R, 96 min. Directed by Michael Schultz. Starring Terence "T.C." Carson, Lisa Arrindell, Nathaniel "Afrika" Hall, Blanche Baker, Julia Campbell, Bernie Mcinerney, Loretta Devine.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 20, 1991
Dexter Jackson (Carson) wants to be a TV news reporter something fierce. This young black man is anxious to break free of the family dry cleaning business and, toward that end, has been taking classes at the Ajax School of Broadcasting. His girlfriend believes in him but his sister wishes he'd get his mind back on the dry cleaning. Opportunity finally knocks when he winds up in the right place at the right time (Channel Four's news reporter is slain on the site of a hostage crisis) and Dexter swiftly picks up the microphone, straps on the camera and faces the gunman, all of which turns him into the celebrity of the moment. Channel Four's executive news director and super-bitch Kate Penndragin (subtle name for a dragon lady, hunh?) likes the potential she sees in Dexter. So she hires him and molds his identity into her personal vision of Homeboy About Town. Bit by bit, Kate transforms him into her ideal Man About Town. She cuts off his dreadlocks, she cleans up his street jive, she chooses his wardrobe, she chases off his girlfriend and appoints a more suitable bride (in other words, a match made in ratings heaven -- between the Man About Town and the white Weather Girl). No wonder Dexter begins having frightening hallucinations of a white-skinned version of himself broadcasting from inside his TV set. And in his zealous search for more lurid and more sensational stories, he begins to exploit and betray the neighborhood people who trust him. Livin' Large's morality tale is pretty predictable and uninspired. But it is delivered with some fresh zip by its central cast of screen acting newcomers. Veteran director Schultz (Car Wash, Cooley High, Greased Lightning) ought to be able to pull off something more original than this. It's at its best when you get the feeling that these young actors are simply interacting with the camera or that the Atlanta location work is really an active participant in setting the tone for the film. But you can't escape this creepy feeling that the people involved with inventing this story are none too wild about women as a category of people. The producer is a ridiculous ball-breaker who salivates at the sight of blood and gore on her newscasts and is only concerned with her promotion to a bigger, juicier market. The Weather Girl is played as an utter bimbo with news desk pretensions (and willing to sleep her way to that coveted spot). The climax is a big cat-fight in which Dexter ultimately learns the error of his ways. Livin' Large has its moments, but for the most part, it's livin' on borrowed time.