4 min read

'Jean Of The Joneses', a classic, is an unapologetically Black comedy on life, death, and love

'Jean Of The Joneses', a classic, is an unapologetically Black comedy on life, death, and love
Jean of the Joneses (2016) directed by Stella Meghie

Jean of the Joneses, currently available to stream at the TIFF virtual cinema,  is a Black, dark comedy about Black women, aunties, sisters, cousins, nieces, and a couple of grandbabies who are struggling with a death they can not understand.

Getting to it: I loved this movie. I got to see so many aspects of myself that I was never truly aware of. I saw on screen something I could relate to, something we could all relate to. Bonus points: It’s funny as Hell. Does that make sense? Trust me, it took me a while to figure out how to genre-ize this film. I mean, Wikipedia really sent me down a tunnel there.

Can we really stand by movie genres anymore? Does it matter? One of my favorite movies is Cloud Atlas because they had the gall to pack every type of storyline and character in history into three hours. I believe all great films do this in order to be great films. Maybe just not in the same intensive way that Cloud Atlas does.

I believe Jean of the Joneses is a great film about the human condition. In every good comedy, there needs to be steaks. Did I spell that right? No. I didn’t. I meant stakes. (This pun has nothing to do with the film I’m just being a butt). This flick highlighted a truth that I never truly had the vulnerability to explore. It never dawned on me that my work could be perceived solely by its content, and not based on my skin color. I know right? Radical thought!

Also: What’s more of a prompt for high comedy than a funeral surrounded by family secrets?

Perhaps if those secrets were being kept by a storm of astonishingly talented strong Black women: Sherri Shepherd, Erica Ash, Michelle Hurst, Gloria Rueben (Canadian), and our lead Taylor Paige (I’m older than her by a few months and I’m really trying not to get all up in my feelings about it right now ‘kay?).

Here’s a really quick synopsis without giving away these previously mentioned invaluable family secrets: A surprising family visitor shows up at grandma’s house and dies on the porch. Instantly. Literally. On the stoop. I don’t even know who you would even call about that nonsense. 311?

Listen, I love any movie where Black women smoke weed, drink wine heavily, get emotional, cuss a man out for being disrespectful, cry, be stubborn, and wear Versace. Believe it or not, I too, am one of them. Representation gets an A+ right there.

Another thing I love to do, which is on full display in this film, is yell at my family from across the house. Why move to say what you need to say at a reasonable volume, when you can yell and be misunderstood to frustration by the people you love dearly?

I also have been known to enjoy couch surfing, starting arguments with my mother, and coffee cup rosé. It’s critical to remember, these are successful, powerful, and bold Black women. They live in high society and struggle to cope with the inevitable mundane and tedious aspects of life and death - all the while attempting to maintain grace. Go figure: they are just like us.

I really do believe that love is truly at the heart of all classic stories. Love is in every film -truly! I mean sometimes it’s not pretty, but love is always there. This is why I need to discuss Black-on-Black love. This was pure and honest. No games. Just honesty.

So let’s talk about the handsome paramedic, the love-interest, played by Mamoudou Athie. Yeah, that’s right this movie has a love interest, and he’s a dreamboat. Dare I say! This might be one of the only “Rom-Coms” I like mainly because it was not predictable. Yes, there was a sex scene. It was steamy and full of consent. Best of both worlds am I right? I can’t say I ever thought a “meet cute” would ever happen in an ambulance, let alone over a dead body, but this movie had me blushing. I’m ashamed to admit that. I’m grown! I haven’t felt that way since Amélie. (Athie also got a sweet gig in Jurassic World: Dominion coming soon).

In short, I’m jealous of everyone’s clothes. Even the funeral attire. It’s informal yet designer. Every character wears a statement piece. No matter how subtle or overt. Just understand that some can afford these clothes on the “daily”. It’s sickening.

Jean Of The Joneses is the directorial debut of  Stella Meghie, a Black, Canadian Woman. She also wrote the screenplay so there ya go. Although, that’s not why you should watch it. You should watch it because it’s a funny film about how there truly is no correct way to deal with life and death.

Sidebar about this film’s aesthetic: This movie also felt like Stanley Tucci was involved? I know he wasn’t but it just felt like it. Yeah, it’s totally a vibe. Definitely, Devil Wears Prada meets Julia & Julia. Just clean composition, warm hues, and quality angles. It’s like when you get fresh (free) bread and rosemary-infused olive oil at a fine restaurant. Or is it just that Stanely Tucci has legit been in a million films? I digress.