Interracial relationships in movies tend to be hit or miss. If treated fairly, it can make the movie an uplifting picture, one that will make people stand up and cheer for a satisfying ending. Misused, and it just becomes an ugly context for the movie to hide around. Constellation starts out with the love story between Carmel Boxer (played by Gabrielle Union), an african-american lady and her white boyfriend & solider Bear (young version played by …aniel Bess, older version played by David Clennon). The problem here is that this love story is placed in the heart of Huntsville, Alabama before the civil rights movement takes place. So the love is forbidden but never falters. However, it never ends up where it should truly be. Fifty years pass (now the present) and Carmel has died, bringing together both families back in Alabama. Bear is hosting the funeral with his daughter Celeste (played byEver Carradine). Carmel’s relatives that join the procession include her brother Helms (played by Billy Dee Williams) and his two daughters Rosa (played by Zoe Saldana) and Lucy (played by Melissa De Sousa).
Once the film fast forwards fifty years later, the story becomes centered on Bear forgiving himself for the events that took place when he was younger and on Helms who tries to accept that his sister has passed in his own special way. The characters in this film are very strong and their acting is actually quite good. Billy Dee Williams as Helms is very smooth (and very much the ladies man as one would expect him to be) but has the satisfying character arch as he moves from one scene to the next. The daughters as well as Helm’s two wives (Nancy and Jenita; played by Lesley Ann Warren & Rae Dawn Chong respectively)also exhibit strong characters that attempt to convince Helms to go to the funeral while dealing with their own stories that become integral to the picture. Of particular interest is the past relationship between Rosa and Errol Hickman (played by Hill Harper), the latter coming to the funeral out of respect and honor even though him and Rosa are no longer together. Errol is basically a younger version of Helm’s character and is very interesting as well.
The problem as you can see here is that this movie is only ninety six minutes long and sports all of these major characters. Therefore anybody outside of Helms and Carmel’s characters are not fully developed. The former relationship love triangle between Rosa, Errol, and Celeste isn’t explored as quite as much as should be. Neither is the dynamic between Lucy and her husband, Kent (played by Alec Newman). These stories are thrown in for a few minutes and you have so many questions that are never answered. Furthermore, the movie suffers heavily from camera cuts. Scenes are awkwardly cut and resumed. Scenes that should have been taken on one or two cuts; look to be patched into half a dozen. Therefore it creates no connection between the audience and the story as it moves forward. The ending is awesome and touching but it could have been so much more powerful if the previous scenes were edited to create more flow. I’m sure this was probably a technique on the director’s part (Jordan Walker-Pearlman) but it just didn’t work here.
This film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a beautiful picture, no mistake about that. Every scene looks good and the colors are well used. The setting of Alabama (where it was also shot) looks fantastic here and almost makes me want to visit. All the stars look striking and the lighting is excellent.
Sound is also strong here with the included Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtrack (English). Surrounds are actually used from time to time which is rare for a tear jerker such as this. No complaints, dialog is clear and I never feel the film gets overly quiet or overly loud except where appropriate. Subtitles are also provided in English, Spanish and French.
Automatic Trailers & Original Trailer – Woman Thou Art Loosed, Gas & the original trailer are the only extras provided. Behind the scenes or interviews with the director would have been appreciated. Heck, a commentary with just Billy Dee Williams (okay maybe not) would have been interesting. Forewarned, in my opinion; the trailer does give away some of the ending.
Constellation as a movie falls into the shoulda coulda woulda aspect. It should have been a great film, it had great characters and some really solid acting. It could have made us care more about the fantastic ending but it didn’t as various plots and scenes are not fully explained nor executed properly. It would have been a complete tear jerker had the director not awkwardly cut the movie at key spots creating a disjunction between the movie and the audience. The video and audio are certainly solid and are pleasing to the eye. If nothing else, you get to see Billy Dee be Billy Dee. But this movie would have benefited greatly from thirty more minutes and better editing. As such, my recommendation sits somewhere in the middle; the acting should be appreciated but the directing should not.
Special Features List
- Automatic Trailers (2)
- Original Trailer