×

Funny Valentines

Director Julie Dash's tribute to the strength of family ties is a bittersweet treat that borders on the maudlin but perseveres thanks to solid performances by its leads, Loretta Devine and Alfre Woodard.

With:
Joyce May - Alfre Woodard Dearie B. - Loretta Devine Ethel B. - CCH Pounder Danny - Peter Jay Fernandez Lauren - Megalyn Echikunwoke Gail - Kajuana Shuford Young Joyce - Kiara Tucker Young Dearie B - Saycon Sengbloh Robert Earl - Christopher Dunn Dr. Thomas Holder - Tom Wright Troy Watts - Von Coulter

Director Julie Dash’s tribute to the strength of family ties is a bittersweet treat that borders on the maudlin but perseveres thanks to solid performances by its leads, Loretta Devine and Alfre Woodard. Adapted from a short story by J. California Cooper, “Funny Valentines,” the first original production from BET Movies/Starz!3, is a slice-of-life story about surviving and prospering despite adversity.

When Manhattanite Joyce (Woodard) discovers that her husband is having an affair, she packs up her two daughters, Lauren (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Gail (Kajuana Shuford), and heads home to the deep South for some recovery time. Slow-witted cousin Dearie B. (Devine) is trying to cope with her dying mother, Ethel B. (CCH Pounder), afraid that she will once again be abandoned in life, just as when Joyce was whisked off to New York in the summer of 1968. It was that summer that Dearie B. was raped by the local minister’s son, an incident that fractured the harmony of the small, God-fearing community and was later swept under the carpet to avoid a scandal.

Instead of exploiting this story for its sheer dramatic potential, writers Ron Stacker Thompson and Ashley Tyler opt for a tale about healing life’s wounds. As much as Dearie B. is treated as a victim, she is not; Joyce only needs time to realize she has the power to regain control in her life.

Director Julie Dash fosters a real sense of affection for these characters. Like her film debut, “Daughters in the Dust,” Dash provides a lush atmosphere, creating a visual treat with intricate flashback sequences and inviting locations.

Devine plays Dearie B. like a breathless, excited child, a little too giggly, a little too loud, but never pitiable. Too, Devine empowers the character with just the right amount of chutzpah. Woodard, as Joyce, is a perfect fit.

Pounder is a wonderfully powerful presence, especially in the flashback sequences, conveying most of the intense emotion with very little dialogue. The child actors including Echikunwoke as Lauren and Saycon Sengbloh as the young Dearie B., put in noteworthy performances. Technical credits are above par.

Funny Valentines

Starz!; Sun. Feb. 14, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in North Carolina by Chelsey Avenue Prods. in association with BET Movies/Starz!3 and Studios USA Pictures. Executive producers, Ron Stacker Thompson, Ashley Tyler, Alfre Woodard; producer, Scott White; director, Julie Dash; writers, Thompson, Tyler, Amy Scar Farris

Crew: Camera, Karl Hermann; editor, H. Sharif Frisina; music Stanley Clarke; production designer, Pam Warner; casting A. Edelman, Elisa Goodman. 2 HOURS.

Cast: Joyce May - Alfre Woodard Dearie B. - Loretta Devine Ethel B. - CCH Pounder Danny - Peter Jay Fernandez Lauren - Megalyn Echikunwoke Gail - Kajuana Shuford Young Joyce - Kiara Tucker Young Dearie B - Saycon Sengbloh Robert Earl - Christopher Dunn Dr. Thomas Holder - Tom Wright Troy Watts - Von Coulter

More TV

  • Al Burton

    Al Burton, 'Jeffersons' and 'Diff’rent Strokes' Producer, Dies at 91

    Television producer and executive Al Burton, known for his work on “The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” died Tuesday at his home in San Mateo, California. He was 91. Burton leaves behind a six-decade legacy of hit television shows that also included “One Day at a Time,” “Silver Spoons,” “Square Pegs” and “Facts of Life.” However, long [...]

  • Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal

    Dwyane Wade Sets Multi-Year Development Deal at WarnerMedia

    Dwayne Wade is bouncing his way into WarnerMedia’s court. The retired NBA All Star has signed a multi-faceted, multi-year deal with the company, including a development deal via his 59th & Prairie Entertainment production banner. Part of the deal sees Wade sign on as a commentator at Turner Sports. He is set to make appearances [...]

  • Katie Couric Sheryl Sandberg

    Katie Couric Steamrolls Sheryl Sandberg in Roving Vanity Fair Summit Interview

    Sending a jolt through a luxurious and excessively polite afternoon in Beverly Hills, veteran journalist Katie Couric delivered a relentless series of hardball questions to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. Speaking in conversation at the sixth annual Vanity Fair New Establishment summit at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Couric’s [...]

  • EVIL is a psychological mystery that

    CBS Renews 'Evil,' Orders Full Seasons of Four Other Freshman Shows

    CBS is doubling down on all its new shows. The network has renewed “Evil” for a second season, and handed out full-season orders to its other four freshman series, namely “All Rise,” “Carol’s Second Act,” “The Unicorn,” and “Bob Hearts Abishola.” “Evil” is set to conclude its 13-episode first season (creators Michelle and Robert King [...]

  • Jamie Lee Curtis

    Jamie Lee Curtis to Produce Military Drama With Put Pilot Order at Fox

    Jamie Lee Curtis is teaming up with April Fitzsimmons and Berlanti Productions for a drama project that has received a put pilot order at Fox. Titled “Chain of Command,” the one-hour project follows a young Air Force investigator with radical crime-solving methodology who returns to her hometown to join a military task force that doesn’t [...]

  • Michael MannLACMA: Art and Film Gala,

    TV News Roundup: Michael Mann to Direct and Executive Produce HBO Max's 'Tokyo Vice'

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO Max names MIchael Mann as a director and executive producer of “Tokyo Vice” and Chip and Joanna Gaines announce the first original series coming to the couple’s Magnolia Network. DATES Netflix announced a six-episode docuseries centered on Nasty Cherry, the latest all-female group signed to Charli XCX’s label will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content