There is a part of me that is very cautious in reviewing a film like Terence Nance's An Oversimplification of Her Beauty. Most reviews, or even descriptions rely on some form of categorization in order to provide a potential audience with an easily identified region to exist within, allowing them to know before they purchase a ticket or spend their time, if they will be comfortable in that setting. But, I am limited in my skill with language. Try as I may, defining it without such descriptors is hard, and I'll probably take the easy way out. This film, the directorial debut from Mr. Nance defies -- no, completely ignores category. As an artist, he and this film simply exist.
Starting with the film's title, one should realize that they're in for a different kind of storytelling experience. One may assume it to be a romantic comedy, a chic flick, or a date movie. It could be all of those things. But those are also most inadequate ways of explaining what it is. If one were to say it is part music video, part Power Point presentation, part street art/ documentary pastiche, that would also be correct, and still falling short. Add in the use of different styles of animation and visual effects, and you're getting close. The main character, the director playing as himself presents an instructive and highly relatable, almost professorial lesson on falling in love. It's like reading a visual "Afro-Urban, Post-Bohemian Relationships For Dummies" instruction manual. And, that's where it is at its best. There was, pretty much, not one moment of this film when I didn't thirst for the next. His crafty, patchwork construction of every tool and artistic outlet he must have ever tried being at his disposal, the film soars. If anyone watching has ever fallen in love, been the suitor, the one longed after, the smitten or the crestfallen, will feel this movie as they would feel butterflies before a first kiss. It's that good.
The relationship as portrayed by Mr. Nance and his love interest, played by Namik Minter, seems gentle and playful, completely unforced and natural. Coming of age during a time when reality television was always an entertainment option, as was MTV and YouTube, the story in the film seems more real, and more accurate than any of them. Everything about these two resonates the new reality that young adults live in; a post-graduate netherworld, existing between pre-adulthood and meaningful employment. The uncertainty of this life is both buoyed and deflated when love enters the picture. The viewer rides along knowing it may or may not work out, but optimism never fades. Therein lies the beauty of youth and dreams.
I would think that Terence Nance is the filmmaker Steve Jobs always dreamed of, utilizing his digital hub as his infinite playground. When interviewed, Mr. Nance explains that he is just doing what comes naturally to him. It's not surprising that he thinks of himself as a musician, first, as the film repeats stanzas and choruses as if it were a song, written and performed as he imagined it. During onee such stanza, Terence, the character declares of his evolved relationship, "a new freedom, a new and welcoming freedom". As a viewer, I am so heartened by this statement, as well as all of its application. This talent portends so much potential, and really makes me want to say, "thank you Terence, for dreaming in color."
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, from Variance Films opens April 26th in select theaters. Executive produced by Jay-Z, Dream Hampton and Wyatt Cenac, directed by and starring Terence Nance and Namik Minter