Poetic Justice (film)
|Directed by||John Singleton|
|Produced by||John Singleton
Dwight Alanzo Williams
|Written by||John Singleton|
|Music by||Stanley Clarke|
|Cinematography||Peter Lyons Collister|
|Edited by||Bruce Cannon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||109 minutes|
The main character, Justice, writes beautiful poems which she recites throughout the movie. The poems are in fact by Maya Angelou. Angelou also appears in the movie as one of the three elderly sisters, May, June and April (called the "Calendar Sisters") whom the characters meet at a roadside family reunion. The Last Poets make an appearance toward the end of the film.
Poetic Justice reached #1 in the box office its opening weekend, grossing $11,728,455. It eventually grossed a total of $27,515,786.
It was later referenced in Kendrick Lamar and Drake's single "Poetic Justice", which was titled after and based on the film. The song sampled Jackson's "Any Time, Any Place" and became a top 10 hit in 2013.
Justice (Janet Jackson) is a young woman living in South Central, Los Angeles. She was named Justice by her late mother, who gave birth to her while attending law school. After the shooting death of her boyfriend Markell (Q-Tip), Justice falls into a deep depression. She spends the majority of her time in the house she inherited from her grandmother, with her cat White Boy, only going out to her job at a local hair salon. Justice is a talented poet, she reads many of her poems throughout the course of the film, both to other characters and in voice over.
Justice is at the hair salon working one day when a young postal clerk named Lucky (Tupac Shakur) comes in and begins flirting with her. She rebuffs his advances with the help of her female boss; the two women pretend to be lesbians and mock Lucky with their "relationship".
Lucky has also had tragedy in his life: his main focus is caring for his young daughter Keisha. He had to forcibly remove her from the care of her mother, Angel, a crack addict who was using drugs and having sex with her drug dealer while leaving the child unattended in the apartment. Lucky dreams of a professional career in music and shows considerable promise, but he insists his cousin is the true talent.
Justice's friend Iesha (Regina King) manages to talk Justice into taking a road trip to Oakland with Iesha's boyfriend, Chicago (Joe Torry), Lucky's co-worker at the post office. Justice warily accepts, mainly because she has to go to Oakland for a hair show, and her car dies at the last minute. Unbeknownst to Justice, Lucky is Chicago's co-worker also on the trip, and she will now be sharing a postal van with him and their two mutual friends. Initially they argue, but over the course of the film soften towards each other as they discover their similarities.
The foursome make a couple of detours, the first being a family reunion barbecue they see signs for on the road. Here it becomes apparent (although there were ample hints earlier) that Iesha and Chicago's relationship is troubled. Iesha openly flirts with other men at the barbecue, while Chicago broods watching her behavior. The second stop is a beach where each of the four characters contemplate their separate situations in internal monologues. Next, they stop at an African Cultural Fair where Lucky and Justice grow closer as they discuss their lives. After leaving the fair, the friction between Chicago and Iesha explodes when Iesha informs Chicago she has been seeing someone on the side and he physically attacks her. Lucky initially decides not to get involved in the fight until Justice defends Iesha by kicking Chicago in the groin, and Chicago turns his physical brutality on Justice in retaliation. Lucky, Justice, along with a bleeding and shaken Iesha leave Chicago by the side of the road and continue on their journey.
Lucky stops the postal van at a beach, and Justice goes to see what's wrong. She begins opening up to him about her life and Lucky becomes sympathetic. They share a kiss and Justice walks away apparently unsure of her feelings for Lucky. She goes back to him and they share another kiss.
When the now-threesome arrive in Oakland, they are met with the news that Lucky's cousin, with whom he had been working on recording music, has been killed. Lucky blames himself for not being in Oakland sooner, believing he could have prevented the shooting had he been in town. He turns his anger on Justice, angrily blaming her for distracting him while they were on the road.
Some months have passed, and Lucky and Keisha meet up with Justice again back at the hair salon, just at the moment Lucky brings in his daughter Keisha. Lucky is remorseful over his conduct in Oakland and the cruel words he said to Justice there, and apologizes. She smiles at him and they share a passionate kiss. Justice smiles coyly, and then turns her attention to Keisha, fussing over her hair. Justice and Lucky's eyes meet over Keisha's head and they smile, their connection as strong as ever.
- Janet Jackson as Justice
- Tupac Shakur as Lucky
- Regina King as Keisha
- Joe Torry as Chicago
- Tyra Ferrell as Jessie
- Roger Guenveur Smith as Heywood
- Billy Zane as Brad
- Lori Petty as Penelope
- Khandi Alexander as Simone
- Maya Angelou as Aunt June
- John Cothran, Jr. as Uncle Earl
- Jenifer Lewis as Anne
- Keanu Reeves as Homeless Man (uncredited)
- Kimberly Brooks as Kim
- Maia Campbell as Shante
- Norma Donaldson as Aunt May
- Dedrick D. Gobert as Lloyd (as Dedrick Gobert)
- René Elizondo, Jr. as E.J.
- Clifton Collins Jr. as Mailroom Supervisor (as Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez)
- Ricky Harris as Gangsta
- Tone Loc as J Bone
- Q-Tip as Markell
- Tyra Ferrell as Hair Salon Worker
- Keith Washington as Dexter
- Yvette Wilson as Colette
- Michael Colyar as Panhandler
- Baha Jackson as Baha
On July 23, 2013, John Singleton spoke with writer Lathleen Ade-Brown for Essence Magazine and discussed the 20th anniversary of the film. The interview mentioned that in 1993 black female leads were rare and he wanted to give a voice to young African American women. He also revealed whose idea it was for Janet Jackson to wear the now iconic braids: "That was a collaboration between myself, Janet, [dance choreographer] Fatima Robinson and a dancer named Josie Harris. Josie had the braids in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video, which I directed. I brought her and Fatima and a couple of other dancers over to hang out with Janet and they all became friends. I said, "Why don't we try and do Janet's hair like Josie's hair?" We got the hairstyle from Harlem and just put it in a West Coast movie."
Jada Pinkett Smith, Lisa Bonet, Monica Calhoun and many other popular actresses auditioned for the role of Justice, though Singleton knew from the script's draft that the role was solely intended for Janet Jackson.
According to Box Office Mojo, Poetic Justice made $27,515,786 in the domestic box office with the budget being $14,000,000. For its opening weekend it opened at #1 with over $11,000,000 in ticket sales. It ranked #20 for the year of 1993 openings and #21 for highest R-rated movies of 1993.
Poetic Justice received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Most critics compared it to the critically acclaimed film, also by Singleton, Boyz N the Hood:
- Roger Ebert: "...Boyz N the Hood was one of the most powerful and influential films of its time, in 1991. "Poetic Justice" is not its equal, but does not aspire to be; it is a softer, gentler film, more of a romance than a commentary on social conditions." He also stated, "...Poetic Justice unwinds like a road picture from the early 1970s, in which the characters are introduced and then set off on a trip that becomes a journey of discovery. By the end of the film, Justice will have learned to trust and love again, and Shakur will have learned how to listen to a woman. And all of the characters - who in one way or another lack families - will begin to get a feeling for the larger African/American family to which they belong. The scene where that takes place is one of the best in the film."
- Variety stated: "Though aiming to create a feel for the locale, Singleton periodically loses sight of audiences unfamiliar with the colorful lingo. Poetic Justice has a lot to commend, but discipline is not high on the list. That flaw will be a major stumbling block toward wide appeal, and overseas prospects seem particularly remote."
The film currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews.
Awards and nominations
- Best Original Song - Janet Jackson ("Again") - Nominated
- Best Original Song - Janet Jackson ("Again") - Nominated
The soundtrack album was released on June 29, 1993.
- "Get It Up" – 4:25 (TLC)
- "Indo Smoke" – 5:24 (Mista Grimm, Warren G and Nate Dogg)
- "One in a Million" – 4:05 (Pete Rock & CL Smooth)
- "Poor Man's Poetry" – 3:00 (Naughty by Nature)
- "Definition of a Thug Nigga" – 4:10 (2Pac)
- "Cash in My Hands" – 3:53 (Nice & Smooth)
- "I Wanna Be Your Man" – 3:55 (Chaka Demus & Pliers)
- "Niggas Don't Give a Fuck" – 4:41 (Tha Dogg Pound)
- "Well Alright" – 4:00 (Babyface)
- "Waiting for You" – 5:15 (Tony! Toni! Toné!)
- "Call Me a Mack" – 4:06 (Usher)
- "Nite & Day" – 5:04 (Cultural Revolution)
- "I've Been Waiting" – 4:20 (Terri & Monica)
- "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" – 2:55 (Stevie Wonder)
- "Justice's Groove" – 4:35 (Stanley Clarke)
- Ade-Brown, Lathleen (23 July 2013). "EXCLUSIVE: John Singleton on the 20th Anniversary of 'Poetic Justice,' Working with Janet Jackson and Tupac". Essence. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
- Fox, David J. (1993-07-27). "Weekend Box Office : 'Poetic' Finds Its Place in Line". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- Fox, David J. (1993-08-02). "'Sun' Rises Over 'Justice'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
- Fox, David J. (1993-07-26). "Poetic' Finds Justice at Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "Poetic Justice". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
- Klady, Leonard (1993-07-19). "Poetic Justice". Variety. Retrieved 2010-12-16.
- "List of awards and nominations received by Janet Jackson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia". En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
- "Amazon.com". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-04-10.
- Poetic Justice at the Internet Movie Database
- Poetic Justice at AllMovie
- Poetic Justice at Rotten Tomatoes
- Poetic Justice: Filmmaking South Central Style
- Original Poetic Justice Script
- Poetic Justice at the Open Media Database
- VH1 Clips, Trailer and more