Jessica Alba is really hot. Kind of. I mean, she is. In her face. But the more you learn about her, the less hot she seems. For one thing, she’s not very good at acting, which is her job. And that’s problematic. It’s better when people are good at their jobs. Then they can take pride in what they do, and you can take pride with them. Yay! When they’re bad at their jobs, it’s just like, eesh. Not that Jessica Alba doesn’t have millions of dollars to help ease the pain of her terrible case of The Eeshes. But, you know. And also, I read this interview with her once where she talked about how as a child she was riddled with health problems and how doctors didn’t think she was going to live very long? The article was positing this fact as some kind of uplifting story about a girl who triumphed against all of the odds to be hot. “Doctors didn’t think she was going to be very hot, but then it turned out later that she was hot. Here is a box of tissues for your tears of awe-struck joy.” But the article had the opposite affect on me. Now whenever I see Jessica Alba, all I can think about is a bent over tiny child crippled by disease. I’m always nervous watching her, like she’s going to collapse in a heap, phlegm running out of her nose, thin, watery blood foaming at her mouth, and big, watery, yellow eyes staring into the camera as she squeaks out a thin, barely audible plea. “Kill me. Please.”
And of course there is that one picture of her, also known as The Picture. Embarrassing!
But for all of these things that we have learned about Jessica Alba over the years, and for as much as they make her seem like an inconsequential talent who is living on the borrowed time of her face’s youthfulness, looking back at Honey, an early Alba vehicle from 2003, it turns out she is actually, counter-intuitively, getting better with time! Unexpected.
Honey tells the story of Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba), a 22-year-old who works as a bartender, a record store clerk, and a dance instructor. That is a lot of jobs! But her real dream is to be a backup dancer in music videos. One night, when she is at the club where she bartends–mostly in exchange for free drinks and access to the dance floor–a young man videotapes her from the balcony. It turns out that he works as an assistant to Michael Ellis, who I guess is like Hype Williams or something. Naturally, he cannot believe the moves that she is doing, even though for the most part they look like pretty standard dancefloor fare. He tracks her down to be in a music video. Her dreams are coming true! That was easy! Within the first 25 minutes of the movie, Honey becomes a famous backup dancer in hip hop music videos, and her friends and dance students begin to complain that she is changing and no longer has time for them. Hold on a second! I can’t possibly invest myself in a cost-of-fame narrative when I don’t even know who the person is! Anyway, no time for that. Honey quickly moves from backup dancer to choreographer. She’s the new hotness. But that all goes sour very quickly when Michael Ellis, who for most of the movie has been very kind and supportive and generous with Honey, suddenly decides to try and have sex with her at a party because that is the most cliche plotline one could imagine for their relationship. She says no, and now she is blackballed from the Music Video Industry. It is too bad that when she was the biggest choreographer in town, she didn’t bother to get any kind of talent management or legal representation. Oh well. Oh, also she is trying to save Lil Romeo and his younger brother from a life of crime on the streets through dance. She met them in a back alley behind the night club? Naturally. And also she is dating Mekhi Phifer now.
Anyway, one day she is walking down the street and she sees a store front with a For Sale sign on the window and she realizes this would be “perfect” for a “dance studio, or even a dance school for the entire neighborhood.” Dream big, I guess. She goes to the bank and tries to buy the property, but she doesn’t have enough money, so she makes the bank a strange offer: she will put half of the deposit down now if they will keep the property off the market for a month while she collects the other half of the down payment. Even the bank is like “this is a terrible property on a terrible block, and you clearly have not bothered to even look at any other properties or do any kind of research into this whatsoever, but OK, it’s a deal?” But that is when she gets blacklisted from Music Video Town. Uh oh…how will she get the rest of the money she needs before…the bank…puts the property that no one wants…back on the market? She will hold a benefit! Mekhi Pfifer helps her find an old church that is about to be converted into office space (huh?) and is also filled with barrels (double huh?) to host her event. But Michael Ellis is realizing that maybe he made a mistake when Missy Elliott insists on using Honey as a choreographer for her next video. He offers to buy Honey her school if she’ll come back to work for him, but she says no. That she is going to get the school on her own. Although, wouldn’t getting the school by working be getting it on your own? Nevermind! I’m sorry, Honey! Anyway, everyone comes to the benefit. An investor from the bank LITERALLY GIVES THE THUMBS UP FROM THE AUDIENCE, because that is how business works. And all the children are saved from crime and also drugs.
Wait. How many movies was that? Are you sure it was just one? It seemed like a lot more than one movie.
Why are there so many dramatic conflicts? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like for movies to have a little complexity, but this is outlandish! Here are just a few of the plotlines:
-Honey’s rags to riches rise and fall in the music video industry
-Honey’s friends feel she has abandoned them
-Honey’s music video director mentor loves and then wants to rape her
-Honey’s mom wants her to do ballet instead of hip hop dance, because of how ballet takes you so many places these days?
-Honey has a dance rival from the club who is competing for the only spot as a dancer/choreographer in the whole city apparently. Her name is Katrina.
-Will she ever go on a date with Mekhi Pfifer?
-Will the bank put the building no one wants on the market before she has a time to put a down payment on it?
That last one is seriously one of my favorite plotlines of all time. Seriously? That is the dramatic tension? The bank is going to put a property that has clearly been lying fallow for months back on the market if she doesn’t raise the money in time? But she could still raise the money and buy it once it’s back on the market? Since no one else is buying it? Just to be clear on what is happening? I haven’t been this nervous about real estate since it looked like Mikey’s dad was going to have to sell the Goondocks to the country club developers! Just kidding. I actually was nervous about the Goondocks. I was not nervous about the building that Honey set her heart on after walking by it randomly on the street one day as if there wasn’t another empty building in all of New York.
Although, nothing that anyone does makes any sense. When Honey goes on her first date with Mekhi Phifer, he says “come with me, I want to show you something,” and then he just takes her to the barber shop that he owns? And they sit in barber shop chairs and talk about their hopes and dreams? What did he want to show her? How little sense everyone’s motivations in this movie make and how almost no thought seems to have been put into any aspect of it whatsoever? Because in that case: DONE!
Also, the whole thing is just so terribly dated:
Tweet? THE TWEET?
That is some Hollywood magic right there. Even when Tweet did have her only song that everyone has ever heard of, no one, and especially not little children torn between a life of drug dealing and a life of dance (the two kinds of lives) would have had this reaction. Although there were some other more respectable cameos.
The movie was prescient in a couple of ways. It did star Jesisca Alba before she was Jessica Alba. And it does predate the upcoming dance craze of the mid-to-late ’00s. But did it have to do so in such terrible fashion? I mean, I understand that dance is all around us, but it’s also not really all around us, you know? Like, sometimes a basketball is just a basketball. Just like how sometimes a person with a slack-jawed face is just an idiot.
I was kind of hoping they would go Dancer in the Dark at the end and hang Honey in prison. NO DICE.
Another thing that was so funny in this movie was how everyone would give a thorough round of high fives and congratulatory handshakes after every successful sequence of three dance steps in a row. Step-step-step-congratulations. They were constantly breaking to congratulate each other. More time was spent shaking hands than was actually spent DRUMLINING. Meanwhile, the song has four minutes left in it that you need to figure out dance moves for. GET TO WORK!
And Jessica Alba, please stop referring to the Community Center as the “Community Cenner.” You are almost as terrible at doing J-Lo impersonations as you are at keeping your mouth closed when you’re thinking!
Oh, also: the soundtrack? Like, the movie starts off strong with a Ghostface Killah song, and at first I was like “Ghostface Killah soundtrack, how bad can this really be?” Well first of all, very bad. But second of all, I think the spent all of their soundtrack budget on the song. The rest of the music was the weirdest decontextualized nightmare garbage music from a Greeting Card about a Dentist’s Office Waiting Room.
Although to be fair to the soundtrack, lots of details were ridiculous and hilarious. Like the church that they are “converting to office space”?
What great offices that building will convert into!
And at one point Lil Romeo, who is, like, nine, gets arrested and goes to jail. Like, jail jail?
I guess it was 2003, when America’s Child Jail Laws were much more lenient from state-to-state than they are today. Back then you could put a child in jail just for looking at you wrong. (Huh?)
All in all, this was a very sloppy, silly movie. “But Gabe, how is it even possible that this low-budget movie with no stars in it about a girl whose dream is to be in Tweet’s newest music video possibly turn out bad?” I don’t know. There are mysteries all around us.