Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Stella Meghie (Everything, Everything) and produced by Will Packer (Girls Trip), The Photograph is a star-studded new romantic drama film. Thanks to this stellar casting, and an admirable sense of style from Meghie, the movie manages to overcome its conventional script to be moderately enjoyable.
The film tells the interconnected stories of a journalist doing a profile on a fisherman from New Orleans, the fisherman and a photographer who fall in love, and the photographer’s daughter as she explores the secrets of her mother’s past. Ultimately, this is a relatively by-the-book set-up for an intertwined romance story, and as a result, the plot isn’t particularly interesting.
Part of the reason that the movie struggles to keep the viewer’s attention is that it takes far too long to get moving. Once the two leads of the film eventually meet, the movie becomes much more entertaining thanks to the actors’ chemistry together. The flashback sequences also work relatively well, as they are the more cinematically-written of the storylines.
The character development in the film also needed a bit of additional work. Disappointingly, the more conventional of the storylines is the one that ends up being most compelling because the characters’ motivations are more sympathetic. Although the movie’s leads do have a motivation, they aren’t compelling enough to justify the film.
Because of this, the movie doesn’t resonate on an emotional level as it likely should. Thankfully, this also means that the film never falls into tear-jerking territory, but the movie still should have elicited more of a reaction. Nothing in the film feels particularly urgent or necessary, mostly because everything that happens is so predictable.
That said, the movie does have the major strengths of its cast working on its side. Although Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield may not immediately jump out as two actors who would work as an on-screen couple, their chemistry together is great and absolutely sells the film. They are also surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast, including Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lil Rel Howery, Courtney B. Vance, and Chelsea Peretti, although none of them are given very much to do.
Another thing about the movie that works very well is the film’s sense of visual style. Since the movie is very much tied up with the spirit of Louisiana, it is understandable why the soundtrack of the film would be defined by jazzy and soulful sounds, and the look of the movie feels very similar. Meghie’s talents behind the camera shine much stronger than her talents behind the typewriter.
Ultimately, the main reason to see The Photograph is the undeniable task and chemistry of the cast. Although the script of the film is rather forgettable, it will likely be pretty entertaining for most audiences because of the largely inoffensive nature of the movie.
The Photograph opens in theaters on February 14.