Laurel Avenue

This two-part HBO drama depicts the life of a black American working-class family in St. Paul, Minn., over a long and busy weekend. Interestingly scripted by playwrightMichael Henry Brown and directed by Carl Franklin ("One False Move"), densely plotted film probably overreaches. Still, it's a noble attempt at bringing something relatively new to TV.

With:
Cast: Mary Alice, Jay Brooks, Juanita Jennings, Scott Lawrence, Dan Martin, Monte Russell, Ondrea Shalbetter, Rhonda Stubbins White, Vonte Sweet, Gay Thomas , Malinda Williams, Mel Winkler, Gary Dourdon, Michael Tezla, Ulysses Zachary.

This two-part HBO drama depicts the life of a black American working-class family in St. Paul, Minn., over a long and busy weekend. Interestingly scripted by playwrightMichael Henry Brown and directed by Carl Franklin (“One False Move”), densely plotted film probably overreaches. Still, it’s a noble attempt at bringing something relatively new to TV.

The show, which is lit to resemble videotape, more than casually resembles co-exec producer Charles S. Dutton’s Fox series, “Roc.””Laurel Avenue,” however, billed as a miniseries, ain’t no sitcom: Three members of the extended Arnett family are involved in drugs, and there isn’t a lot of laughter.

Central characters are Jake and Maggie Arnett (Mel Winkler, Mary Alice), who live with their son (Scott Lawrence), a high school basketball coach; 16 -year-old daughter Sheila (Malinda Williams); and elderly Uncle Otis (Jay Brooks).

The large and unwieldy cast also includes fraternal twins Yolanda (Juanita Jennings) and Rolanda (Rhonda Stubbins White), a policewoman and recovering drug addict, respectively; Marcus (Monte Russell), who works in a clothing store; and Woody (Dan Martin), an aspiring musician.

Not surprisingly, virtually none of the plot threads is resolved. Some might call this a cold slice of reality; others would designate it poor storytelling. In either event, pic might have worked better as a 2 1/2-hour movie.

Strongest aspects are Brown’s naturalistic dialogue and acting that’s terrific, though a less documentary style would have helped; too often, the lines are either spoken too softly to be heard or simply buried by the soundtrack music.

Laurel Avenue

HBO

Production: Filmed in St. Paul-Minneapolis by HBO Independent Prods. Exec producers, Paul Aaron, Charles S. Dutton; producers, Tony To, Jesse Beaton; co-producer-writer, Michael Henry Brown; director, Carl Franklin.

Crew: Camera, James Glennon; editor, Carole Kravetz; production designer, Maxine Shepard; art director, Gwendolyn Witkin; sound, Ken Segal; music, Harold Wheeler. 180 MIN.

Cast: Cast: Mary Alice, Jay Brooks, Juanita Jennings, Scott Lawrence, Dan Martin, Monte Russell, Ondrea Shalbetter, Rhonda Stubbins White, Vonte Sweet, Gay Thomas , Malinda Williams, Mel Winkler, Gary Dourdon, Michael Tezla, Ulysses Zachary.

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