Looking Back, Love Jones Is Actually For The Birds (It’s Us — We’re The Birds)

Welcome to Love Like This?, a romance column where we, Kathleen Newman-Bremang and Ineye Komonibo, revisit some of the most romantic — or not, in hindsight — scenes in Black film and TV history.
In 1997 when Love Jones premiered, Darius and Nina’s love story wasn’t supposed to exist on the big screen — a romance about Black intellectuals living and loving in a big city was so rare, Roger Ebert called it “a world more unfamiliar to moviegoers than the far side of the moon.” It’s a cheeky line in his mostly positive review that hails the movie as “romantic and erotic and smart,” but he wasn't wrong. Black love like this didn’t make it into mainstream movies back then, and in the late ‘90s, a romance about a Black poet (Darius, played by Lorenz Tate) and a Black photographer (Nina, played by Nia Long) falling in and out of love in Chicago was unprecedented. So much so, the film’s writer-director Theodore Witcher didn’t think his script would see the light of day. “It had never occurred to me that the movie would get made, quite frankly, because it just seemed so small and niche, even for Black people,” Witcher told the LA Times in 2017. “It just seemed so outside of what Hollywood was making at the time.”
Over two decades later, we’ve got more Black love stories onscreen, but there’s something about Love Jones that still keeps Black audiences rapt. Maybe it’s the fact that this movie is so small and niche; it’s just a simple story about two people, their messy relationship and their opinionated friends, all set against the backdrop of Chicago’s dark and bluesy poetry scene. What other film is giving us iconic and chaotic lines like “I’m the blues in your left thigh trying to become the funk in your right”? (For the record, that would have absolutely worked on us.) Recently, the Netflix account Strong Black Lead asked fans’ about their favorite Black love story, and Love Jones came out on top as the undisputed champion. However, we also know that some of our classic movie couples don’t exactly hold up when we look back at them with fresh, grown-ass eyes. So, in this column, we’re going deep on the scenes in the best onscreen Black love stories — the good, the bad, and the thirsty — to see if all these years later, they still live up to the pedestals we’ve placed them on. From grand gestures to big movie-ending kisses, we’re analyzing it all. Sure, some of these scenes are beloved, but would we really want a love like this? 
Since Love Jones has just been crowned the best of the best and is finally streaming on Netflix again, let’s start with Darius Lovehall, Nina Mosley, and their poetic (and equally tumultuous) love story.
The Scene: 
By the final scene in the film, as Darius confronts Nina in the pouring rain, our lovers have been through it. There have been sexy hookups and jealousy-fueled blow ups (Nina going back to her ex, Darius finding comfort in a woman named Lisa). They’ve broken up and gotten back together, then broken up again, and haven’t seen each other for a year. Nina moved to New York to pursue her photography career, and Darius is still in Chicago using a typewriter like it’s 1957, not ‘97. However, after coming to the realization that she can’t live without the blues in her left thigh (Darius), Nina gets up on stage to recite some poetry of her own to try to win him back. That results in an epic closing scene in the rain where Darius professes his love and Nina hesitantly agrees to give their  long distance relationship a try. The line that gets her? “This here, right now, at this very moment, is all that matters to me. I love you — that's urgent like a motherfucker.”
Does The Grand Gesture Hold Up?
Ineye Komonibo: ​​I personally don't believe in doing a grand gesture for a man ever, but okay, Ms. Nina! 
Kathleen Newman-Bremang: The gesture of her getting up on the stage and reciting this poem to a poet and meeting him on his level creatively was cool. I liked it a lot. Now, what she actually says in the poem, that’s another discussion. There wasn't enough context for what their relationship went through and what Nina was feeling. I’m not saying that it needed to be super corny, like, "I'm sorry about Lisa/ I should’ve trusted you/ let’s get some pizza,” but it needs a bit more of the sauce we’ve seen throughout the movie. The poem went like this: "The color of light/ The shape of sound high in the evergreens/ It lies suspended in the hills, a blue line in the red sky/ I'm looking at sound/ I am hearing the brightness." Nina, baby girl...what are you saying?

"Nina is basically a fuckboy the whole time, and Darius still loves her unconditionally. I like that energy."

Kathleen Newmang-bremang
IK: It's been a year, and Nina has allegedly been working on this for however long, and she really thinks she can win over the man that she loves — a whole poet! — by writing a stanza about foliage and the color of light? No, it doesn't hold up. It’s giving eighth grade English assignment. 
KNB: I think it holds up as a grand gesture, but it just needed better execution! I wanted some more bars. 
Could It Be Me? 
IK: Girl, that relationship would have ended a long time ago because I would have moved to New York City and forgotten all about Darius. It truly couldn't have been me in any of this, not even the way they started dating to begin with. Remember when he pulled up to Nina’s house unannounced at some point early on? No. Back and forth with a man for months? I’m not doing that. The “grand gesture” on stage? Nope. 
KNB: But he's fine, so it all would've worked on me. I actually think it would have been me. In all of it. Even in the trash moments.
IK: I see we have a bird in the building...
KNB: Look, I can be a bird at times! I probably would’ve even gone back to my ex like Nina does. There are a few times in the movie and in these final scenes where I was yelling at Nina because she does some trash things, but I have enough self awareness to know that I absolutely would do that shit, too. I would stand up there and put myself out there just for the sake of love and romance. If a man professed his love for me in the rain, I know I would be all for it. But I do think I would have swooned a bit more than Nina did. From Darius’s perspective, he was doing everything I would want from a man at the end of a romance. She did him dirty, but he is giving what he needs to give: the hopelessly devoted leading man. The desperation is there, the love is there. And then Nina's basically like, "Whatever. I guess." So, she won in this scenario because she's been trash the whole movie —she dated his homeboy! — and she still has him coming back. It's the scenario of a man begging, which you love! 
IK: I do love to see a man being desperate — it always feels good to see a Black woman being cherished by someone who is truly into her. This is very off-brand for me, but I also feel like Darius maybe deserved a teensy bit more than what he got from Nina. I mean, thank you for coming back and sharing the poem in front of all these people, but...what does it even mean? It wasn’t at all clear what her intention was with that performance because she was being wishy-washy even after he approached her outside. Nina gave 20% when she needed to be coming with at least 50. Instead of, "I live in New York, how's it going to work?" what should've been said is, "I know that I live in New York, but I want this to work." Why does he need to keep convincing you to try every single time?
Rate The Kiss
KNB: 10/10. Larenz Tate can kiss. That was a good kiss! With all the kissing in the whole movie, I was like, "Yes please!" I watch a lot of these movies where they don't give us anything throughout the whole thing, and then there's one motherfucking kiss at the very end, a little peck between no-lipped white people. But Love Jones? Lips on 100. The technique was good — that pull away, the pull back — and the length of the kiss was just right. We're cutting to credits, and they're still kissing.
IK: Looking at the ambience and the surroundings, we can't be doing all of that for too long in the rain; hair glued to the sides of my face, leather jacket sticking to my body. However, after they first kissed, and then they broke apart and just looked at each other, I was, ahem, moved. That wasn't a choreographed kiss. You can just tell Nia and Larenz know something or two about lipsing. I just wanted it to cut to a scene of them going back to the house. Like, let’s get indoors and get down! So out of 10, full picture in mind, I’m giving it an 8. Maybe I’m greedy, but I wanted to see the aftermath of that kiss. Gimme more.

"If I was experiencing this story as a 15-year-old, I may have thought, Oh my gosh, I need a Darius. At my big age, it doesn’t really feel as deep as they wanted us to believe it was."

Ineye Komonibo
Would You Want A Love Like This?
IK: With Darius and Nina’s story, the longing just wasn't there for me. I know that they liked each other a lot, and that they enjoyed each other's company, but that definitive spark was not there, so I wouldn’t want it. I also watched this movie for the first time ever last year, so my only understanding of it is as a grown woman. If I was experiencing this story as a 15-year-old, I may have thought, Oh my gosh, I need a Darius. At my big age, it doesn’t really feel as deep as they wanted us to believe it was.
KNB: When I first watched it, I definitely wanted a Darius. But if I was him, I wouldn’t put up with half of Nina’s shit, which is exactly what I love about this movie and about their love story; it flips the stereotypical gender roles on their head, and nobody was doing that shit in 1997. You've got Darius complaining to Isaiah Washington’s character about Nina and how messed up he is over her, and I really liked seeing that because you usually see the girls crying to their friends about a man. Nina's basically a fuckboy the whole time, and Darius still loves her unconditionally. I like that energy. 
Is This Couple Still Together? 
IK: They are absolutely not together anymore. Darius and Nina last for three months, and it's probably really hard for both of them. Maybe she meets someone who is just as ambitious and already has their own money and on the same career trajectory, which shows her how incompatible she is with Darius (because what is his actual job?). I just don’t believe that the relationship has the foundation to last. Three months tops and that's it. Then Nina’s going to find somebody else. 
KNB: I agree, but I actually think they're going to break up and get back together multiple times. The relationship may last for years, but it’ll be years of back and forth, breaking up and getting back together, Nina gets jealous, Darius leaves and then comes back and professes his love. There's probably a kid in there, and they might even get married somewhere in that timeline. And then they finally call it.
IK: I feel like Darius is the person who cares more, so he’s going to be the person who walks away — or is walked away from — and gets hurt the most in the process, however long it takes for them to realize that it’s simply not sustainable. 
KNB: I'm rooting for them though! You know what they need? Therapy.

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