A LOT OF NOTHING movie poster | ©2023 RLJE

A LOT OF NOTHING movie poster | ©2023 RLJE

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Y’lan Noel, Cleopatra Coleman, Lex Scott Davis, Shamier Anderson, Justin Hartley
Writers: Mo McRae and Sarah Kelly Kaplan
Director: Mo McRae
Distributor: RLJE Entertainment
Release Date: February 3, 2023

A lot of nothing is, tragically, too often what happens when a police officer shoots a nonthreatening civilian. Black couple Vanessa (Cleopatra Coleman) and James (Y’lan Noel) are therefore determined to do something when they see broadcast news footage of their white police officer next-door neighbor Brian (Justin Hartley) that shows him shooting an unarmed youth.

James urges Vanessa to post something on Facebook, but they get so sidetracked in a discussion of whom they should quote a whole lot of nothing gets done that night.

The next day, Vanessa and James both drive to their separate offices, where both put up with racist microaggressions (in Vanessa’s case, sexism is at play, too). James has convinced himself the money is worth it. Vanessa, at her breaking point, decides to confront Brian.

Brian immediately lives down to Vanessa’s opinion of him by slinging a racial slur at her and suggesting that her husband “control” her. This ends with Brian duct-taped to a chair in James and Vanessa’s garage.

Vanessa’s desire to have a discussion with Brian about the shooting has obvious become much more complicated. However, before she and James can decide what to do, James’s brother Jamal (Shamier Anderson) and Jamal’s pregnant fiancée Candy (Lex Scott Davis) arrive for a prearranged dinner engagement.

A LOT OF NOTHING has a lot to say about racism and classism, conscious and otherwise, how they’re sometimes present when people don’t see these in themselves, and how they’re sometimes a manifestation of other problems. Some of this appears poised to prompt debate, but there are so many subplots crammed in here that there’s barely time for each concept to get an airing, never mind a rebuttal.

Gender issues don’t get as much examination as it seems they will at first. This isn’t necessarily a flaw – not everything can or should be covered in a single film – except that A LOT OF NOTHING raises the subject, then drops it.

Tonal shifts are abrupt. A LOT OF NOTHING goes from social satire to absurdist farce back to satire to deadly serious in ways that don’t flow naturally. Director Mo McRae and his co-screenwriter Sarah Kelly Kaplan give the characters plenty of personal details, and the actors are all very good, but somehow this doesn’t fully add up.

This may be because the filmmakers introduce everybody worst foot first. By the time we’re supposed to sympathize with these people, we’ve lost patience. Even presented as very broad comedy, and even eventually (and far less comedically) learning what’s driving Vanessa, we frankly can’t believe her key action that propels the rest of the story.

A LOT OF NOTHING makes some good points, makes others that are debatable, but because it zigzags so much, it comes off more as a presentation of arguments than as an engaging narrative.

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