MOVIE REVIEW: Tell Me Sweet Something

By Helen Herimbi Time of article published Sep 4, 2015

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TELL ME SWEET SOMETHING

DIRECTOR: Akin Omotoso

CAST: Nomzamo Mbatha, Maps Maponyane, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Kagiso Lediga, Thomas Gumede and Thembi Seete

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

CLASSIFICATION: 10-12 PGDLS

RATING: ***

Moratiwa (Mbatha) is a bookstore owner who has had dreams of penning the greatest African love story since she was a child. Nat (Maponyane) is a model who has the hots for Moratiwa. She believes the hype about models who aren’t intelligent and he’s relentless in his efforts to convince her he’s not a stereotype.

What’s more, she’s still reeling from the pain of a heartbreak so she’s reluctant to start dating again. With the help of her friend, Takasha (Ziqubu) – who is like a walking Buzzfeed post with a set of rules for just about everything – Moratiwa gets her man and gets into her writing groove.

Tell Me Sweet Something is romantic and sexy and funny in a few parts. In essence, it’s about the idea that real life and fiction are worlds apart and what can be controlled on the page cannot be controlled in person. But there are a few things that detract from that notion.

Don’t go into this movie with any expectations – good or bad – about Maps’s acting. That way, you can’t be disappointed.

I don’t know if it’s art imitating life or not, but Maps, who is really a model, doesn’t translate well as an actor. It was difficult to work out whether he was playing being daft a little too well or if that’s down to a lack of self-awareness.

In that light, the chemistry between the co-stars is more fizzle than sizzle and in this case, it fizzled fast. We’ve seen Mbatha in a number of small screen roles and she’s a good actress. As are Ziqubu and Thembi Seete who plays a salesperson at Moratiwa’s bookshop.

It’s clear Seete was cast in the vein of the supportive, die-hard romantic sista with the kind of hair-brained schemes that are so popular in American romantic comedies. They’re also always busty.

Think Josie in Love Jones and Francine in Brown Sugar. Kagiso Lediga’s role as Takasha’s inept boyfriend is so calculated that it gets tired really quickly.

Now for the sweet parts: Moratiwa’s store front is gorgeous! The wall is adorned with portraits of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Wole Soyinka and Gcina Mhlope.

The narrative is intercut with real-life stories of love as told in an interview-style by couples who have grown old together.

It’s endearing to watch the salt-and-pepper-haired old folks reminisce and relive what’s made their relationships last.

This is obviously a film that was close to director, Akin Omotoso’s heart. This is clearly shown by the cameo appearances made by his sister and brilliant author, Yewande Omotoso and other people who are a big part of his real life. So in that sense, it’s sweet that this tale came to fruition.

But just as we can’t expect Moratiwa to write the definitive African love story, the same goes for this movie.

If you liked Love Jones and Poetic Justice, you might want to check this out.

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