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Geek Love

hy is it that every time they make a movie about a nerd, the character in question is always white? Someone must have cried discrimination, for Jump Tomorrow gives us a black nerd and puts him front and center. In the time-honored movie tradition, of course, he's actually a good-looking actor in fine physical shape forced into starchy business attire and glasses. But the actor in question, an animator for MTV named Tunde Adebimpe, is good enough that he makes you believe it. It's even possible to imagine him donning Vulcan ears on his day off.

Adebimpe is George, a shy Nigerian-American soon to be joined in matrimony none too willingly to a preselected bride courtesy of his uncle. So distracted is he that, when he shows up at the airport to meet his fiancée, he's a day late, and she's already flown up to Niagara Falls, where the ceremony is to be held. Then a welcome diversion arrives in the form of Alicia (Natalia Verbeke), a feisty Latina who can liberate any uptight spirit. Being painfully shy, George manages to resist her charms, but not before she's invited him to a party.

Meanwhile, at another terminal, romantic Frenchman Gerard (Hippolyte Girardot) proposes to his girlfriend and has hired a brass band for the occasion. She turns him down, leaving George to comfort the sobbing Frenchman later in the bathroom and haul him to Alicia's party that night.

And what would the party be without a disaster or two? Alicia, though happy to see George, soon utters the word boyfriend in reference to another guest, causing every subsequent word she says to sound like nonsensical buzzing (a clever sound effect). Meanwhile Gerard gets drunk and prepares to jump off the roof. George eventually talks him down by telling him that, if he still feels the same way when sober, he can "jump tomorrow."

Gerard accepts this logic with relative ease, and the next day, in gratitude, he insists on driving George to Niagara Falls for the prearranged wedding. Niagara Falls, we are told, is the capital of both love and suicide in America, one of many attempts in this narrative to link marriage with self-destruction. Alicia and her boyfriend, Nathan (James Wilby), an intellectual hippie Brit, are likewise hitchhiking to Canada, and if you think they'll repeatedly run into George and Gerard, well, duh.

While the acting is superb across the board, especially from Adebimpe, and the sets wonderfully garish (including bright yellow roller coasters and a surreally kitschy love motel), the plot of Jump Tomorrow isn't what it could be. It's all too easy from a Western perspective to criticize arranged marriages; given that the bride here turns out to not be so bad after all, a braver choice might have been for writer-director Joel Hopkins finally to endorse the union. But it's clear that he never intends to go there. Exactly why George falls for Alicia is not clear; all he seems to know is that she looks good, likes ladybugs, and calls him "Jorge," which is somehow irresistible.

Perhaps what's best about the movie is its absolute colorblindness. The cast is as multicultural as it gets, yet aside from the film's obvious bias against arranged marriages, nothing is ever made of racial differences in the story's various couplings. Whether or not feisty Latinas are leading the field when it comes to seducing the repressed may be another issue altogether.

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Luke Y. Thompson
Contact: Luke Y. Thompson

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