Thursday, March 18, 2010

FLICK PICK: "Watermelon Man" -- Racier Than I Thought

Last night I finally made it to the end of "Watermelon Man." This 1970's flick is about a 30-something bigoted obnoxious white guy who wakes up in the middle of the night to discover he is now black. This is by far not one of my favorite movies, but it does has some good socially provokative moments, and I was delighted that it did not have a neatly-tied-with-a-bow Hollywood ending.

Mr. Gerber, played by Godfrey Cambridge, never goes back to being white (which is a relief because he looks totally weird made up to look white and is a much better looking black man).

His initial shock, leads to denial, which leads to dispair, which leads to a sort of acceptance, rebirth and strength. His white family practitioner confirms, "Jeff you are a Negro," and then suggests he consult with a doctor of his own race from here on out. Though Mr. Gerber loses his family, job, and house, he gains humility, dignity, a new community after his neighbors tell him, "We feel your presence can undermine the value of our homes." Mr. Gerber, in fact plays it smart, and drives up a $100,000 buyout that enables him to start over and open up his own business.

Women reacted to his blackness differently. His wife, who once begged for Wednesday night nookie, suddenly stops asking. She offers some sympathy, suggesting that his sunlamp malfunctioned and everything will be alright. When she realizes that he will remain black forever, she withdraws completely. "I'm liberal to a point," she explains, adding, "I never thought marriage was going to be interracial."

A sexy secretary with a German accent, however, has become newly curious about her transformed office mate. She comes onto him, and finally after, getting rejected repeatedly from his wife, Mr. Gerber makes the call. We know what she's thinking even though Mr. Gerber, after looking down his pajama pants, lets the viewer know that "It's just an old wives tale." There is a brief scene with some nudity. The girl is apparently insatiable. When he gets out of bed to go home she gets angry, goes to the open window, and screams "Rape." Nice!

If you haven't seen this strange, comedic, sometimes painful cringe-worthy fictional depiction of racial issues, and like to glimpse sets staged with mediocre vintage suburban decor, then you might like "Watermelon Man." Not for the kids however. Besides a super close up of bare buttocks and a few minutes of boobs (i think they were fake), there are too many politically and socially incorrect slurs that you don't want your kids repeating.

No comments: