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Wednesday, June 17, 1998

Hav Plenty

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Writer-director-editor Christopher Scott Cherot's debut film, Hav Plenty, is fueled by that most elusive substance: charm. Cherot stars as Lee Plenty, a struggling, comically self-deprecating writer who, during a most memorable New Year's weekend, has every woman in his vicinity throw herself at him.

But Hav Plenty isn't quite your standard Woody Allenish fantasy of an irresistible schlub. Lee Plenty serves more as a Rorschach test for the women he encounters, each of whom is dealing with an individual set of conflicting desires. Principal among them is Havilland Savage (Chenoa Maxwell) whose engagement to "musical genius" Michael Simmons (Hill Harper) is on the rocks. Havilland, who's obviously used to having money, power and influence, presides over all social occasions with a regal air.

This icy, refined dominance is nothing new to her younger sister Leigh (Robinne Lee), a photographer recently married to software executive Felix Darling (Reginald James), who evaluates herself by Havilland's criteria and finds she never quite measures up. Rounding out this dysfunctional gathering is the kooky Caroline Gooden (Tammi Katherine Jones), whose long friendship with Havilland has an obvious competitive edge.

When Lee, an outsider socially, economically and temperamentally, arrives on the scene, the standard relationships go comically haywire. Particularly since everyone -- except Lee and Hav, that is -- can see that they're in love with each other.

This mostly clever romantic comedy sometimes gets too cutesy for its own good, particularly when it comes to Caroline, whose increasingly off-the-wall costume changes can't cloak her non-character.

As rough-hewn as the film sometimes looks, the acting by this ensemble cast (almost all are making their film debuts) is surprisingly smooth.

Like love jones (1997), Hav Plenty is set in a matter-of-factly upper-middle-class black milieu and features a writer using his derailed romance as fodder for an autobiographical work. But while Christopher Scott Cherot's ultra-low-budget labor of love may not gleam like its more polished counterparts, it's a diamond in the rough. In Hav Plenty, romance isn't a smooth road, but an increasingly sophisticated obstacle course.

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