I saw "Disappearing Acts" a couple of times on HBO back when it 1st came out, and I bought the DVD several months ago. I must admit that, at first, I was a tiny bit skeptical about whether I'd like a made-for-HBO movie. But I should have known that the "Dream Team" of Gina Prince-Bythewood and Sanaa Lathan (director & lead actress of "Love and Basketball") would deliver the goods. From the beginning, this movie just felt REAL - no glossy sets, clothes, etc. Just the genuine simplicity that you would find in the homes/lives of everywoman or everyman. This lack of unnecessary trappings allowed the characters to take the spotlight, and made their struggles seem really genuine and believable.
As usual, Sanaa Lathan lit up the screen with a natural talent and presence rarely seen nowadays, especially among younger actresses. She demonstrated incredible acting range in this movie, conveying Zora's initial infatuation, lust, and ecstasy, which gave way to pain, frustration, hurt and, ultimately, forgiveness and reconciliation. Wesley Snipes gave a surprisingly good performance as Franklin. I had previously only seen him in action movies (Blade, etc.), but in "Disappearing Acts," he showed his ability to break out of the action-hero box. While a more "conventionally-handsome" actor could probably have been cast as Franklin, I don't know whether he would have done the job here. Wesley has always been good at playing characters that are more significant by what they don't say rather than what they do. That was a good fit for the role of Franklin, with his multiple demons and insecurities. Plus, Sanaa and Wesley had a strong on-screen chemistry that made you understand why Zora and Franklin found it so difficult to let each other go. (That refrigerator love scene practically melted my TV screen!) Casting an absolutely stunning "GQ-type" black actor to play Franklin probably would have been a bit truer to the look of the character as he was portrayed in the book, but there's no guarantee that a beautiful male lead would have generated the same sort of sensuality that made this movie so riveting. And when it comes down to it, you can suspend disbelief on looks if the acting and vibe between the actors are strong enough. Chemistry and on-screen charisma can't be faked.
I thought that the movie was pretty true to the book, although, naturally, there was artistic license taken here and there. The movie did a fine job of getting across the book's message that although lust/passion are easy, forging a real relationship takes work and sacrifice, even if it means letting the person you love go so that they can deal with their own issues. I think that many women (and men) can relate to what it's like to get into a co-dependent relationship where both parties lose themselves to some extent (hence the title of the movie/book). Overall, this was a very good, well-acted movie, which did the book justice.
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