90) Armond White TV Review of Carl Franklin’s HBO mini-series Laurel Avenue -1993-
“Laurel Avenue dramatizes the efforts of an entire family to mature, be responsible, get along, stay alive.
Laurel Avenue exists in direct
opposition to the childishness and frivolty…
…of The Hughes Brothers film Menace II Society and the upcoming John Singleton film Poetic Justice while being more exciting and sexier than either of those hip hop melodramas. Director Carl Franklin and screen writer Michael Henry Brown, approach contemporary Black American life with the sobriety of adulthood without the usual dullness that appellation typically implies…”
“…Laurel Avenue, produced by Roc star Charles Dutton, is as good a piece of art as has been made in this country in the past twenty years, and this achievement is almost shockingly unexpected. A TV movie (even on cable) about African-Amercians threathens to meet the bourgeois demands of obvious social criticism or moral uplift, and the first half supplies all of that (as did the sententious Frank’s Place), though with a measured, observational ease that suggests theatrical cinema rather than emphatic TV. This could be the result of compromise (the first half’s story is credited to Michael Henry Brown plus Paul Aaron…”
“…But then Laurel Avenue bursts the bounds of the medium, becoming more contemplative–and like that cool, levelheaded sermon–more stylistically daring. In Part Two, the Arnett family starts to act like a family, rather than a body politic, split up into neat representatives of urban problems. The actual number of family members increases as their personal concerns get elaborated and more detailed. The truth of the world seems to be bursting from inside each handsome, emotionally animated face. Their lives don’t seem determined by…”
“…There’s the stable but easily fooled father (Mel Winkler); the mother who plays piano in church but can’t warm to her children (Mary Alice); the fraternal twin sisters (Juanita Jennings and Rhonda Stubbins-White), whose actions repel the love they feel for each other; a brother (Monte Russell) looking for a safe hustle; a schoolteaching brother (Scott Lawrence) who gets his middle-class righteousness challenged; a younger daughter (Malinda Williams) surrounded by troublesome suitors; a nephew (Vonte Sweet) torn between street camaraderie and the awesome burden of kinship. None of these characters dominates the narrative, and Carl Franklin and Michael Henry Brown even add sidelong glances at the crises of outsiders–a white high school athlete with a gripe, a Black one afraid of success, a homeless woman. Laurel Avenue’s plots keep widening and deepening like Robert Altman’s Nashville (the movie of movies), and its this intense and unpredictable momentum that makes it so extraordinary…”
To read more of Armond White’s take on Carl Franklin’s HBO mini-series Laurel Avenue, purchase a new or used copy of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook The World.
Tags: "Laurel Avenue" HBO mini-series, actor Chad Matz, actor Charles 'Roc' Dutton, actor Chris Rohr, Actor Dan Martin, Actor Gary Dourdan, Actor Jay Brooks, Actor John Beasley, Actor Mel Winkler, Actor Michael Tezla, Actor Monte Russell, Actor Mychael T Rambo, Actor Randy Carter, Actor Scott Lawrence, Actor TC Ellis, Actor Ulysses Zachary, Actor Vonte Sweet, actress Buffy Sedlachek, Actress Edna Duncan, actress Gay Thomas, Actress Juanita Jennings, Actress Khandi Simone, Actress Malinda Williams, Actress Mary Alice, Actress Ondrea Shalbetter, Actress Patricia Anderson, Actress Rhonda Stubbins-White, Armond White on Carl Franklin's HBO mini-series "Laurel, Armond White TV Review, Director Carl Franklin