/ 27 February 2023

The Best Man: The Final Chapters

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One Show Two Takes

I’m sceptical about any movie or series that brands itself as a romantic drama, mainly because it’s difficult to create believable chemistry between characters that isn’t painful to watch.  

But I must say, spinoffs from The Best Man have been a favourite. Granted, the movie was released more than 20 years ago, so I wasn’t old enough to enjoy it until much later. The film unpacked themes such as the effects of temptation on relationships, true love and the pursuit of happiness. 

When up-and-coming writer Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) is chosen to be best man by his friend Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut), his novel Unfinished Business causes a stir in their bromance. It reveals secrets about his friends that threaten the wedding. 

The film bagged three NAACP Image Awards in 2000, including Outstanding Motion Picture, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture taken by Nia Long, who plays Jordan Armstrong, and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, which went to Terrence Howard as Quentin Spivey. 

What was striking about director Malcolm Lee’s film is the gripping storyline, which is sincere in representing black life, love and struggles. The movie was an important part of black American culture for many years because of its all-black cast, birthing two sequels, The Best Man Holiday and, recently, The Best Man Holiday: The Final Chapters.  

The Best Man Holiday movie explored themes of life, mortality and grief, how love lives on far beyond loss and what it means to mend the fences of broken relationships. 

Miniseries The Final Chapters, which was released in December, takes a last look at the friendships we’ve come to love over the past two decades — and man is it worth the hype.

It feels like a look down memory lane as many of the characters have gone on to establish formidable careers in entertainment from Long and Howard to Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. 

In The Final Chapters, we see the friends reflecting on the mistakes they’ve made during their middle age as they journey through life after love, loss and self-discovery. It feels more like an extended movie than a series. Which I wasn’t mad at. 

From the first episode, I was captured. Each character is re-introduced. Shelby Taylor (Melissa De Sousa) faces a tough reality that eventually drives her to doing the unthinkable, while writer Harper scores a career-changing opportunity that heightens emotions within the friendship circle, and Lance grapples with grief. 

The Final Chapters has more depth than the previous two iterations, with the characters focusing on solidifying their legacies, obtaining wealth, fighting corporate racism, taking care of elderly parents and attempting to connect with their children. All in all, the series is a pleasant end to this story of friendship, love and black life. — Bongeka Gumede 

When The Best Man came out, I was 19 years old. In two days, I turn 43, so you can imagine the many lifetimes I’ve lived in between the first movie and the recent miniseries The Final Chapters. 

I’m not the only one. Since 1999 — the year Prince sang about — most of the cast have not only gone on to illustrious careers but have thrived in an industry that is notoriously racist towards actors with extra melanin.

Yet it’s not just the actors who have found longevity but the musicians featured on the soundtrack too. There was Maxwell’s Let’s Not Play the Game, the mashup of the epic Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley & The Wailers collabo on Turn Your Lights Down Low and let’s not forget that the queen herself, Beyoncé, contributed to the soundtrack with the Marc Nelson duet After All is Said and Done. 

The Best Man, for my generation, is up with our favourite movies of all time, Love Jones, Brown Sugar and Love & Basketball, as beautiful portrayals of black love. 

And so, in 2013 when The Best Man Holiday came out, many of us were hoping for something uplifting. Since the first film we’d been through a lot — the dawn of a new century, witnessing the first black man as the president of the United States and the death of Nelson Mandela. The sequel was not bad but it didn’t leave us feeling the way we felt the first time we saw those college friends. 

The movie felt like life during the pandemic — it reminded me of my mortality, made me cry and highlighted that having friends who are good for your nervous system is crucial. 

And, so post-Covid, after Terrence Howard had starred in Oscar-winning Hustle & Flow, Nia Long had won several awards and before Diggs and Morris Chestnut became the dark chocolate dreams of many brown and black girls around the continent, we needed something uplifting and to see how our favourite crew was navigating middle age. 

The announcement that The Best Man: The Final Chapters would be released at the end of last year was received with trepidation and excitement. We knew we didn’t want to watch more people die after the pandemic but we also didn’t want to delude ourselves that life should be a bed of roses all the time. 

The Final Chapters was exactly what I needed after a long-ass 2022. This series is sassy, sexy and mindful. It gives us the feeling of what it’d be like to keep our friends from high school and grow together.

If you want to have the full experience, go back to the beginning. Watch the film from 1999, fall in and out of love with the characters, so when you get to 2022, you’ll not only appreciate them, but will find yourself rooting for everyone. 

This is a series for people who believe in love, going after what they want and who allow life to be what it is — unpredictable, sexy and oftentimes heartbreaking. The Final Chapters made me feel as if my best days are ahead of me, not behind me. — Lerato Tshabalala