Blerd Film Club: The Wood

Rick Famuyiwa isn't a name repeated often. Not even inside the black community, unless you move in film lover circles. However, if you name the movies he's written and directed, they're universally loved. Dope, Our Family Wedding, Talk To Me, Brown Sugar, all of those, are great. He wrote all of them, and directed all of them, except Talk To Me. Before he did any of those came his first film in 1999. One that is legendary beyond the others. Starring Omar Epps, Taye Diggs and Richard T. Jones, that film is The Wood.

Roland, Slim and Mike are all childhood friends that grew up together in "The Wood," as they call it. Today Roland is supposed to be getting married but he's missing. Slim, laughs at the idea of marriage but still thinks Roland is wrong for not showing up. The story flashes back to their childhood from here.

Mike is the new kid at school and meets Slim and Roland on his first day. Mike is shy and a little weird, despite that they quickly become friends. They inform him about the rules of living in Inglewood. Including what colors not to wear. They find out Mike has a crush on Alicia and bet him that he won't grab her butt. Being young and dumb, Mike rushes over and grabs her butt. In response, she calls her big brother Stacey. Stacey is a blood. He beats Mike down. However, he respects Mike for trying to fight back, remembers who he is and Mike apologizes to Alicia and she gives him her phone number.

In the present day Mike and Slim drive around looking for Roland. They get a call from a friend named Tanya who has a very drunk Roland at her house. They go to pick him up and promise Lisa that they'll have Roland there in time for the wedding.

In the past the boys get ready for the first high school dance. On the way there, they stop to get mints at the store because they're sure they'll be kissing all the girls, their words not mine. Mike just grabs random mints but Roland and Slim have an entire breakdown on which mints are the best choice. Tic-Tacs are small but pack a lot of punch, but fruit flavors are bad. Also don't go with gum.

Unfortunately, the store gets robbed. The robber is none other than Stacy who remembers Mike from before. He asks the boys if they want anything in the middle of a robbery. While holding the store clerk at gunpoint, he tells his friends how Mike took the beating without crying. He also reminisces about his high school dances. He gives the boys a ride.

Along the way they discuss how nobody has made an album about smoking weed yet. Stacy theorizes he'd make millions because everyone smokes weed. Unfortunately Stacy has a broken tail light. That's cause for some police harassment. Stacy's friend breaks down crying and Mike realizes that, they're still kids too and only a little older. Mike pretends to have a coughing fit so the cops are too distracted to see Stacy's gun. Stacy lets Mike ride up front as he has earned more respect. Stacy then keeps Mike in the car while the others go to the dance. He tells Mike he beat him up because he disrespected his sister, but he can see Mike really did like her. He gives Mike some advice on dating then sends him on in to have a good time.

In the present  Mike and Slim retrieve Roland from Tanya's house. On the car ride to the wedding Slim chastises Mike for always babying Roland, but Mike insists Roland looks sick. Slim doesn't care and Roland vomits on everyone and Slims brand new car. They return to Tanya who lets them clean up with the water hose in the backyard so they don't track vomit into the house. They wear some old clothes she has in the closet and try to clean their suits because the wedding is in less than an hour at this point.

Back in the past the boys are thinking about sex, a lot. They make a bet on who will lose their virginity first. One day Mike walks Alicia home from school, she invites him in. The two fool around and they start to have sex. However, Mike breaks his condom. Alicia tells him that Stacy should have a condom in his room. Mike goes to grab a condom, but hides under Stacy's bed when Stacy comes home with his girlfriend. He waits until they finish having sex to return to Alicia. They have sex, but because Mike is a gentlemen, he doesn't tell his friends and the wager continues.

Back in the present we learn that sometime after high school Mike and Alicia broke up. After getting Roland to the wedding Lisa doesn't want to marry him. Mike shows her a picture from the concert they all met her at. He reminds her that it was almost Slim standing outside that door instead of Roland. The wedding is back on. At the ceremony Mike sees Alicia who he didn't know had been invited. Later at the reception Mike reconnects with Alicia and even considers moving to New York to be with her. Mike and Slim give a toast about how no matter what happens, they'll always be boys from The Wood.

The Wood is a great movie, anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar. It manages to tell two separate stories with flashbacks and not driving us crazy. It didn't win any Oscars or even get nominated for any. Despite that, it more than tripled the budget at the box office. Clearly audiences saw something that Hollywood and critics didn't see. That's the thing about The Wood, everyone sees something different.

Some people see a love story between Mike and Alicia. Some see a coming of age story. Some see a movie about the importance of friendships. Some see a movie about how scary a wedding can be. There's a lot going on in this film, despite that it is all navigated well. All while having a great soundtrack that spans a couple of decades.

No matter what you see or hear, it's undeniably a great film. I don't know if I would put it in my top five favorites, but it would be in my top ten for sure. If you've never seen this film, make an effort to. There's a little something in it for everyone no matter if you're looking to laugh at the absurdity of a "pussy pot" or tear up as Mike tells his friends he loves them.

Download a free copy of Darrell's book Phantasmagoricalread some of his other work at and hear him on the Powerbomb Jutsu Podcast
Blerd Film Club: The Wood Blerd Film Club: The Wood Reviewed by Blerds Online on Thursday, February 21, 2019 Rating: 5

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