Hav Plenty

1998, R, 92 min. Directed by Christopher Scott Cherot. Starring Christopher Scott Cherot, Chenoa Maxwell, Hill Harper, Tammi Katherine Jones, Robinne Lee, Reginald James, Kim Simmons.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 19, 1998

An ensemble comedy from first-time director Cherot, Hav Plenty is packed with good ideas that don't always come to fruition. At times it plays like an urbanized Woody Allen that then deftly swings in the direction of Spike Lee's sexier palettes (She's Gotta Have It comes to mind). At its heart though, Cherot's film is a skewed morality play gone haywire, beginning with the protagonist's febrile search for karmic love and ending with his disavowal of his beliefs in favor of success both in and out of the bedroom. Cherot plays Lee Plenty, an aspiring novelist who is doing the couch tour. He is alone but not really lonely on New Year's Eve when his friend Haviland Savage (Maxwell) rings him up and invites him to spend the holiday at her family's house in Washington, D.C. The family has gone for the weekend -- although her mother appears as a disembodied voice on the family's intricate network of intercoms. However, incoming guests include the sprightly, lovestruck Caroline (Jones), Hav's sister Leigh (Lee), Hav's friend Bobby (Simmons), and Leigh's new husband Felix (James). Over the course of a turbulent three days, the group romances one another, spars, spies, and generally gets into all sorts of vaguely engaging shenanigans, without the hassle of too many things really happening. One thing is obvious up front (and if it's not obvious, it's clearly pointed out, time and again), and that's Lee and Hav's budding mutual attraction. Though they may fight like amiable cats and dogs, it's clear that they're destined to be together. Or so the storyline would have one think. In reality, Cherot tosses more than a few wrenches in the gears of his love machine. Cherot's work exemplifies the pinnacles and pitfalls of the “indie director,” keeping things light and breezy but also a bit staged. While none of the actors are outrightly wooden in their performances, you get the feeling that the improvisational spirit Cherot is clearly aiming for is often trampled underfoot. His clever script suffers a major misfire in the final reel as the film enters into the dreaded, treacherous “film within a film” zone, and Cherot's character Lee ups the ante with a continuing fusillade of fourth-wall-straining, offhand monologues. Despite all of this film's talk of honesty, emotions, and truth, there's more truth in The X-Files than there is in Cherot's middling story. Ultimately, a domino effect that has been set up in the first act quickly proceeds to ripple through to the end, and though Cherot clearly intends this semi-shock ending to come as a revelatory event, it instead feels forced and contrived. But then perhaps that's his message about love in the Nineties.

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More Christopher Scott Cherot Films
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Hav Plenty, Christopher Scott Cherot, Christopher Scott Cherot, Chenoa Maxwell, Hill Harper, Tammi Katherine Jones, Robinne Lee, Reginald James, Kim Simmons

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