I recently watched Nappily Ever After on Netflix, based on the novel by Trisha Thomas which was originally released in 2001.
Violet Jones, played by the entrancing Sanaa Lathan, is an only child in an upper middle-class black family. Her overbearing mother Pauletta played by Lynn Whitfield, required Violet to always look “presentable” in public. Which, by her definition, meant straight hot-combed hair. It’s easy to see the racial undertones of this narrative which also usher in the concept of assimilation. This combined with the mother’s antiquated idea that only a man can give a woman what they needed in life was stamped on young Violet’s psyche.
As an adult, Violet would wake up before her boyfriend to fix her hair and put on makeup. Then she would lay delicately back in bed so he could wake up to a perfect version of her every morning. Her mom would come over at ungodly hours of the morning to straighten her hair, she would dodge her boyfriends’ hair-raking hands at all costs during sex, she avoided steam from the dishwasher and constantly asked her friends and assistant about the possibility of rain. Though this was a new level of obsession for me personally, I also know how real it is for some. Admittedly, all her hard work to remain “presentable” did result in turning heads.
Will, played by Lyriq Bent, is introduced into the movie while in his hair shop giving some corny spiel about how “brothers” want real women. We’re led to believe that the only reason black women straighten their hair is for men’s approval, lust and love. To me, this reflects the attitude of the early 2000’s way more than 2018. Nonetheless, though their worlds are completely different and he he is not the type of man Pauletta approves of, Violet takes a liking to him.
The big chop scene had to be the best and most refreshing part of the movie and Sanaa shined in it! Makeup smeared on her face, she shaved her head while she laughed and simultaneously cried. The three minute close up on her expressive face, red rimmed eyes and all, made her sadness and desperation for freedom that much more real. I loved it! Her journey thereafter shows how this new found freedom from her hair also gives her freedom from the outdated ideas her mother instilled in her. Though the people around her want to hold her back and keep her in a box, she finds her voice and pushes back. Another great storyline in this movie is the relationship she builds with Will’s daughter Zoe, played by the beautiful and talented Daria Johns. It’s just so pure.
I don’t want to give away everything that happens, but I especially love the ending too. The movie was good at subverting expectations in that regard. Overall, I give Nappily Ever After a 7/10 and definitely suggest watching it.