Premium‘s believable moments slightly prevail over its inauthentic ones, helping writer-director Pete Chatmon’s modestly played drama just barely cross over the brink of compelling naturalism. To pay off a college tuition loan from his mom’s boyfriend Phil (Frankie Faison), struggling actor Reginald “Cool” Coolidge (Dorian Missick) spends his days working at Phil’s gas station, a job that leads him to a tense reunion with former fiancé and true love Charli (Zoe Saldana), who’s about to marry lawyer Ed (Hill Harper). Cool’s thoughts revolve around romantic reconciliation, though this quest proves less the stuff of sweet rom-com situations than earnest personal challenges designed by Chatmon to focus on Cool’s process of maturation and self-definition. Cool finds himself stuck auditioning for stereotypical pimp, drug dealer, and murderer characters (for which he’s told he’s not “black” enough), a series of roles as limiting and constricting to his development as is his own penchant for behaving immaturely, selfishly, and at a blasé remove. Chatmon visualizes this last trait via scene-setting typewriter text ripped straight from a screenplay, a device that’s logistically superfluous for the given action at hand but gets at Cool’s penchant for foolishly treating his life like a movie in which he’s the star. For every genuinely scripted incident there’s at least one that rings hollow and false, but Chatmon’s direction is economical and proficient, and Missick (exuding a Will Smith-ian blend of laughter-punctuated charm) and Saldana (honing her knack for conveying quiet, internalized unhappiness) exhibit an unforced and affecting rapport. Moreover, if Premium‘s critique of African-American cinematic representation is never quite as acute (or acutely funny) as that of Robert Townsend’s seminal Hollywood Shuffle, its introductory audition scenes still playfully eviscerate—and its climactic comedy-within-the-movie about slavery reparations (directed by Chatmon himself) prove an amusing corrective to—the prejudice that continues to handcuff filmmakers of all races.
- Codeblack Entertainment
- 97 min
- Pete Chatmon
- Pete Chatmon
- Dorian Missick, Zoe Saldana, Hill Harper, Frankie Faison, William Sadler, Tonya Pinkins, Eva Pigford, Sean Nelson, Keith Nobbs
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