Somewhere In the Middle [2015 Lanre Olabisi film] Review

Genre: Romance/Drama
Year Released: 2015
Distributor: Film Movement
Origin: USA
Running Time: 89 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 16+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Two Girls and a Guy, Life In Free Fall, Imagine I’m Beautiful, Crash, Human Capital
Notes: Warning! Spoilers will be mentioned in this review.
Fun Facts:
-Somewhere In the Middle is the 2nd full-length film from Lanre Olabisi. It’s also his 2nd directorial project to be picked up by Film Movement after August the First.

-Speaking of August the First, Dennis Rubin Green shows up again. He was Dipo from that aforementioned film, but this time he plays Dr. Nelson Spencer. It was kind of weird hearing him talk in an American accent instead of a Nigerian one for this character (Yes, I know Green is from America).

-Billie is played by Cassandra Freeman who has been a featured actress in Inside Man, Numb3rs, Atlanta, and Luke Cage.

-The music supervisor was Michael Whalen. His talents were used in multiple episodes of Nova, National Geographic Explorer, 2057, and even did the original score to the Pokemon Puzzle League game. Yeah, really. Whalen really was trying to be the very best composer and supervisor like no one ever was.

-Gamer Bonus: A Bioshock Infinite ad can be seen as Kofi is walking down one of the streets near a subway entrance.

-Bookworm Bonus: Kofi can be seen holding a copy of Jim Butcher’s “Storm Front” from The Dresden Files in the bookstore scene with Sophia.

-Somewhere In the Middle was executive produced by retired NBA player Chris Webber.

It has been a very long time since I’ve reviewed anything from Film Movement on Iridium Eye. That indie film distributor got a ton of representation, especially during my first couple of years reviewing movies. Even the first review I ever wrote for this blog got North American distribution through them (That’s the Jordanian movie Theeb for those that don’t remember). It has also been a long time since I reviewed something from Lanre Olabisi. I did review August the First years ago, but to say I wasn’t a fan of that movie would be an understatement. As I looked for movies that could work with my Black History Month project, I thought I would give Mr. Olabisi a second chance as I give the spotlight to Black filmmakers as well as movies that deal with the African diaspora. Having only documentaries would be a bit of a cop-out in my opinion, so mixing this up with narrative films would make February worthwhile.

Is this next movie an improvement over Olabisi’s previous feature-length film? Let’s see if that’s the case.

Somewhere In the Middle deals with intersecting lives of different people in New York City. There’s Kofi Spencer who is married to design firm owner Billie. They’ve been having a rocky marriage lately due to their jobs as well as not being intimate. Kofi’s older brother Nelson is a psychiatrist who runs a private practice in his own apartment and meets with a new patient by the name of Sophie. Kofi (who also happened to be in Nelson’s home at the time) falls head over heels for her despite already being married. Sophie is currently single and is a painter. Billie has been having issues with drinking as well as doing unprofessional things behind her employee’s backs. The lives of these four intertwine in direct and indirect ways, but what will happen when so many relationships are trying to bloom or hit the rocks.

Let me get this out of the way first even though this becomes clear not even ten minutes into the film. Somewhere In the Middle is a romance/drama work that utilizes the Rashomon effect. This was interesting because that cinematic device isn’t typically used in that genre, so I do give points for creativity. It was interesting seeing the perspectives of the characters even though some of the parallel scenes happened earlier or in unexpected ways. The plot connecting the four characters made a surprising amount of sense and the interactions for how these characters would meet each other were believable. The soundtrack was pleasant with a mix of ambient works, jazz (mainly due to Kofi being a fan of a jazz band), and some adult alternative of all things, but they all worked. Dr. Nelson Spencer was an underrated character and was a huge contrast with Dennis Rubin Green’s previous role as Dipo with him being a far more likable character. He’s not a perfect person, but I appreciated him being the voice of reason for Kofi as well as being someone who acts the most mature compared to everyone else in the movie (more on that later). He did some good acting by being the no-nonsense big brother and a competent psychiatrist for Sophie. It was great seeing a character like that and it’s a good example of positive representation despite Dr. Spencer not being the main character even though he does help out in the story.

Somewhere In the Middle gets to be in the middle of the road a lot. While the filming is an improvement over August the First, it was still trying to be indie-riffic in the presentation as some kind of aesthetic over necessity if that makes sense. I thought the dialogue and situations got way more awkward than not. I know the actors and actresses were trying, but sometimes the dialogue and timing of the situations felt haphazardly delivered. The biggest problem for me was the portrayal of the story and once again Olabisi manages to Tyler Perry himself again which infuriated me. Of course, the main Black couple (Kofi and Billie) were going to break up and of course, the husband would end up as a cheating douchebag. While it was very uncool of him to cheat on his wife and for being immature, I was so angry at Billie for getting a free pass most of the time and veering into protagonist-centered morality as well as using her gender as carte blanche to do things no guy would get away with. In this movie, Billie gets drunk multiple times, has a party with her employees at the house without Kofi knowing about it, spreads rumors about her employees as well as being manipulative in other relationships, and is caught having porn on her work computer (I’m not making this up even though you only hear the audio), assumes a client who makes board games to be a chronic masturbator despite her pleasuring herself in secret even while on the job (douchey projection, much?), and she even kisses one of her sycophantic employees at her own apartment. If a man did ANY of those things, he’d be the biggest jerk in the movie, but she never gets punished for her actions. She might as well say “I’m the freaking girl-boss, so I can do whatever I want!” with her getting a free ride. The only time she gets any kind of comeuppance was the employee kicking Billie out of her apartment after she kissed her that night. Billie, you know what you did was sexual assault since both of you were drunk and she couldn’t consent in that state, right? She also had some nerve being angry at Kofi cheating when she kissed a girl while liking it behind his back. Kofi may be an immature philanderer, but she is no better than him. God, this movie has blatant gender double standards while also playing up the problematic “Black couples are dysfunctional” tropes that Tyler Perry has made an entire bloody career on. Those parts of the movie really rubbed me the wrong way. You know it’s bad when I was rooting for Kofi earlier in the movie when he called her out on her behavior where the employees/last-minute guests hear him yelling about the insults she’s said about them behind their backs even with the cheating that happened later in the film. It’s a miracle no one in her workforce quit their jobs on-site (they may have been paid too nicely), and it comes off as a kind of workplace Stockholm Syndrome in hindsight. Unbelievable.

This work from Lanre Olabisi was better than August the First, but it’s still a problematic movie. While there were some good secondary characters and the Rashomon effect moments were fine, I wished the rest of the movie would’ve improved. The awkward dialogue and especially Billie’s protagonist centered morality on so many levels. There was some potential in this movie, but how the story was handled was so haphazard. Sorry for reviewing a disappointing movie, everyone.

Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-3 points if you like scandalous love stories.
Add 1 point if you like break-up movies.
Subtract 1-2 points if you can’t stand gender double standards in movies.
Subtract 1 point if you need masterful dialogue.

-Dr. Nelson Spencer was the best character
-Creative usages of the Rashomon effect
-Pleasant soundtrack

-Awkward dialogue and timing
-Uninspiring cinematography
-Billie’s severe protagonist centered morality and getting away with her hypocrisy

Final Score: 4/10 points

Content Warning: I could see Somewhere In the Middle getting a soft to a medium R rating. The language gets very strong with multiple F-bombs in different conversations. The sexual content is certainly R-rated with some partial nudity, some sex scenes, Billie’s habit of masturbating in the bathroom (from her own workplace, no less!), watching porn when no one’s looking, and multiple cases of lewd dialogue. There’s certainly alcohol being consumed at multiple junctures and Billie gets drunk numerous times throughout the movie.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos and videos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Somewhere In the Middle is property of Film Movement. The poster is from IMDb and is property of Film Movement.

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