On Wednesday evening, MadameNoire hosted a screening of the romantic comedy The Weekend at the Crosby Bar in Soho’s Crosby Street Hotel. The film, which was shot by director Stella Meghie in 2017 and initially released for film festival season late last year, is being officially released to audiences at select theaters this weekend. It’s about a brutally honest stand-up comedian named Zadie (former SNL star Sasheer Zamata), set in a city that could be anywhere (it’s like Cali scenery meets New York haunts). Zadie is trying to stay friends with her ex-boyfriend (Tone Bell) three years after their breakup. When she invites him to her mother’s (Kym Whitley) bed and breakfast for the weekend, he ends up bringing his current girlfriend (She’s Gotta Have It‘s DeWanda Wise). Zadie ends up playing third wheel to the couple until an unexpected guest at the B&B (Insecure‘s Y’lan Noel) shows up and causes emotional hell to break loose for all parties.
It’s a very funny movie. In fact, it’s one of the best predominately Black-cast (and non-Black) romantic comedies we’ve seen in quite some time. However, it also manages to have its poignant moments that leave you blurting out ideophones (“Hmph!” and “Hmmmmm” for example) due to the relatability of the characters and the sharp, witty dialogue.
In a post-screening Q&A with star Tone Bell, he told our culture editor Veronica Wells that the project reminds him of what Love Jones was for jazzy stories about Black love more than twenty years ago.
“I grew up with Love Jones and I think that’s one of our really good rom-coms coming out of the ’90s with you just seeing a different level than, say, the Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs movies where it’s a little more commercial,” he said. “Love Jones was like, you pop that in, ain’t nobody getting up. You’re watching the whole thing. Then here was Hav Plenty, which I love. They were simple, but they were also very complex because it’s about the people. It’s not so much about the glitz and the glamour of it. It’s really heart to heart and soul to soul.”
The film, which already has a 93 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, comes at a time where romantic comedies and overall pictures starring Black leads are few and far between in theaters.
“It goes in phases. There was an early ’90s push on Black rom-coms and then it took off for five to seven years. Then it will happen again with the resurgence of it and it shouldn’t have to,” he said. “Queen Latifah had a time where she was doing a bunch of romantic comedies and then it went dry again. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to make a good movie if you have a good story. I hope this helps with that push.”
And a good story it is. Tone noted during the Q&A that the project, which got a wide variety of reactions during our screening, manages to be entertaining without doing the most, doing justice to the work of a cast and crew made up of people of color.
“All-Black cast, all-Black producers, all-Black hair and makeup. Just coming on set and watching everything flow as well as it did, you felt like, yeah, we can do this. We’re going to make something dope. It’s not going to be silly,” he said. “We didn’t use a lot of N-words in there, we didn’t cuss a lot. You’re talking about a romantic comedy and there’s no sex. This was just people. You don’t always have to go there. It was just content and a real story, and it feels good to be a part of it.”
It doesn’t always feel great to play the manipulative ex, though, which is Tone’s cross to bear in The Weekend. It’s a first for the actor and comedian, who previously appeared in Little and normally plays the good guy.
“Oh I was an asshole in this movie!” he joked. “I just remember feeling like, when I read the script, I didn’t know Y’lan was already cast. I remember reading it a couple of times and going, alright, this is something we’re going to do, and then realizing, oh, I’m the bad one [laughs]!”
Speaking of interesting firsts, the rom-com also features two leading ladies of a darker complexion. Tone says it’s a nice change, but isn’t as important as the characters Sasheer and DeWanda represent.
“We’re not worried about complexion or hair. It’s not always about the commercial aspect of it. We’re just going to try and push this as being about people,” he said. “They’re both beautiful, but we’re not pushing pretty. We’re pushing people. We’re pushing that this is how life works.”
The film, which comes out on Friday, September 13 on select screens, certainly has a lot to offer those who see it and inevitably enjoy it. Tone is hopeful that despite the limited release (there was mention that it might end up on Amazon Prime very soon), people will get to see it in one way or another.
“I just want audiences to watch it,” he said. “It ended up being a select theaters thing and a Video on Demand thing, so I hope people give it a shot and don’t need it to have that big $100 million look. I think if people give it a shot, I think you get 10 minutes in and you’re locked in.”