Picks and Pans Review: How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Bassett, who could make a reading of the instructions for applying shoe polish resound with dramatic potential, gives her all playing Stella, a rich, 40-year-old stockbroker from San Francisco who finds the cure for her ennui in the heavily muscled arms of a 20-year-old hunk (Diggs). Bassett's effort, while certainly to be appreciated, isn't enough to save How Stella Got Her Groove Back, a syrupy romantic drama, from its own self-indulgence.
Bassett meets Diggs (a movie newcomer who has a radiant smile and an easy laugh) while vacationing in his native Jamaica. Soon the two are doing considerable mattress testing, which leaves Bassett aglow but also confused and embarrassed. As she repeatedly tells Diggs, "I'm old enough to be your mother."
Stella, faithfully adapted for the screen by Waiting to Exhale's Terry McMillan and Ron Bass from McMillan's 1997 novel, sets out to prove that you're never too old or respectable to fall in love—and that love should be grabbed wherever you find it. Like, duh. So how come it takes Bassett so long to figure this out? The better for first-time feature director Kevin Rodney Sullivan to pad the proceedings with postcard views of lush Jamaica, for Goldberg to ham it up as Bassett's pal, and for the camera to pan appreciatively up and down Diggs's sinewy torso. Okay, so it is fun to see an older woman get a young stud onscreen—though Bassett, just turning 40, and Diggs, 27, don't actually look far apart—after a summer filled with such generationally mismatched duos as Michael Douglas with Gwyneth Paltrow and Harrison Ford with Anne Heche. But Stella never digs much deeper than Bassett fretting about being older and Diggs assuring her, "No matter how many young girls I notice, you are still the woman that I love." Be ill, my heart. (R)
Bottom Line: Older woman, younger man, but it's still the same old story