Mo' Better Blues | Chicago Reader

Mo' Better Blues

Spike Lee's fourth feature (1990) combines some of the cast members from Do the Right Thing (including Lee himself, Giancarlo Esposito, Joie Lee, Robin Harris, Bill Nunn, and John Turturro) with a theme from She's Gotta Have It (promiscuous protagonist gets comeuppance) to tell the story of a dedicated jazz musician (Denzel Washington) whose tunnel vision gets him into trouble. Though it's full of striking visual ideas and actorly turns, it never fully convinces; the characters and plot are too familiar and predictable, and Lee's continuing awkwardness with music—extending here to Branford Marsalis's jazz numbers, a characteristically overblown score by Bill Lee, and the use of a few jazz classics—places too low a premium on silence and sustained listening to allow even the best of the music to register as it should. On the plus side, Cynda Williams is sensational, and some of the experimental aspects of the editing are refreshing. 127 min.

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