Title: Baggage Claim
Director: David E. Talbert
Starring: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott, Adam Brody and Djimon Hounsou
Endlessly searching for your rightful place in society where you can be accepted, loved and admired by your peers, and truly finding happiness in your professional and personal lives, is a struggle many people face as they question what they’re doing with their futures. Not only does the protagonist in writer-director David E. Talbert’s new comedy, ‘Baggage Claim,’ search for a man who will love her for who she is, but the film’s main actress, Paula Patton, also sets out to prove her worth as a strong lead in film. While the film unfortunately features several romantic comedy cliches, Patton works her hardest to prove that just like her character, she’s just as determined to get what she wants.
‘Baggage Claim’ follows Montana Moore, a Baltimore-based flight attendant who’s determined to prove to her family, particularly her over-bearing mother, Catherine (Jennifer Lewis), and herself that she’s worthy of finding a man who truly loves her. After her younger sister, Sheree (Lauren London), announces that she’s engaged to her college boyfriend, Montana is determined to find a suitable man in 30 days, before the wedding.
Montana enlists the help from two of her best friends and fellow flight attendants, Gail (Jill Scott) and Sam (Adam Brody). The three track Montana’s ex-boyfriends through their plane ticket reservations, and she subsequently follows them, to see if any of turned into the one for her. Among the men are Langston (Taye Diggs), who’s running for Congress in Washington, D.C., and hotel owner Quinton (Djimon Hounsou), who wants to take Montana on a year-long global vacation. But she’s willing to forsake fortune to find true love, leaving William (Derek Luke), who she’s been friends with since elementary school and is now her neighbor, a the top of her potential list.
Patton, who is mainly known for her supporting roles in such diverse thrillers and action dramas as ‘2 Guns’ and ‘Disconnect,’ finally made the ascent into a lead role that showcases a relatable social issue that many audiences continuously struggle with in their persona lives. The actress strived to showcase Montana’s belief that women can find success not only in their chosen career, but also with a partner who truly understands and appreciates them for who they are, and doesn’t try to hold them back. While Montana initially begins searching for a potential husband so she wouldn’t be upstaged by her younger sister’s wedding, or hassled by their mother about when she was going to get married, Patton emphasized her character’s gradual realization that trying to fulfill other people’s dreams ultimately won’t make her happy.
Despite the commendable effort Talbert made to create a strong, brave and independent woman for Patton to portray and lead an emotional, yet comical, story that resonates with viewers, ‘Baggage Claim’ is unfortunately also filled with predictable cliches about romance. The filmmaker effortlessly created a flawed protagonist who does realize many of her faults, who at the same time falls into society’s push that she should sacrifice her happiness to be with a man who can provide more for her financially than emotionally. Montana is initially happy to continue pursuing men who she had no true romantic connection with when she first met them, including Langston and Quinton, as she relentlessly searches for someone to bring to Sheree’s wedding, but disappointingly fails to realize the true connection she shares with William.
Many of the supporting characters in ‘Baggage Claim’ are also regrettably portrayed as shallow, stereotypical backdrops who are only present to reinforce Montana’s conflicting feelings. From Catherine continuously pressing her older daughter to find a husband who can provide for her, to Gail generally talking about starting physical relationships, to Sam indulging Montana’s every whim of finding a successful man who can love her, the fearless flight attendant has little emotional support from those closest to her to help her realize what’s truly important to her.
Talbert, who has made a name for himself writing, directing and producing plays focused on the romantic and societal issues African Americans face in contemporary society, laudably made the transition into romantic comedy films with ‘Baggage Claim.’ The movie is not only relatable to all Americans struggling to find love, and balance their personal life with their careers, but also showcases how much people learn about who they really are when they struggle with an identity crisis. But despite the filmmaker and Patton’s best efforts to showcase Montana’s belief that women can find success not only in their professional life, but also with a partner who truly appreciates them for who they are, the comedy is unfortunately filled with cliches about romance. The characters are void of any true development and extensive motivations, but their longing to be accepted and love will surely capture audiences’ attention and sympathy.
Written by: Karen Benardello