By Tylie Shider
It is the end of my work week and I am sitting at my computer when I remember filmmaker Tahir Jetter’s Instagram post reading: Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will give an additional screening of his film How to Tell You’re a Douchebag, a romantic comedy and Sundance success.
As a recently admitted NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate student, I am ambitious to follow the work of alumni. And so after a very brief mental conversation about toll cost, I purchased two tickets to bring the one person in my life who would tell me if I was a douchebag. My wife!
We arrive at the theater early enough to meet Jetter who seems to be a down-to-earth guy with a keen sense of character. The screening is held in Cinema3, an archaic room with colorful seating. We scuffle to find center top row seats just as Jetter enters to snap a photo of the crowd on his smartphone. The film is introduced, Jetter mutters something comedic about ‘assholes’ when given the opportunity to describe his film, the audience laughs and the house lights fade.
The film opens to introduce Ray Livingston (Charles Brice), a writer who seems to be having bad luck with work and women. It continues to sketch the dysfunctional behavior of a broken-hearted dude in his twenties as he indulges in malt-liquor and one-sided relationships with apparently clueless females.
In my opinion, until we meet the very familiar independent black woman Rochelle, played convincingly by DeWanda Wise, this film could be offensive to women in the way the film adaptation of Terry McMillan’s novel Waiting to Exhale was to men in the 90’s. After a chance encounter Ray and Rochelle develop a messy relationship that quickly spirals into a brilliantly crafted authentic end.
Like many of the NYU ‘grads’ indie films I have seen, the story is set in Brooklyn. The city becomes an essential character over the course of the film as it is shot to provide a picturesque backdrop of its diversity and culture.
From the onset the film is really an ode to social media and the detriments it has had on romantic relationships. Today we only need to hit ‘share’ to break a heart or damage a reputation.
With the power media and film has to exploit and shape public opinion, one can only applaud Jetter for creating affluent characters and expanding the narrative of black life in the21st century. Though I am not convinced Ray Livingston was a douchebag, BUT we do not always see our flaws in the mirror.
Check out the film’s website www.howtotellyoureadouchebag.com to catch a screening!