There’s a lot to LUV about Chicago homeboy Common in the title film that opened Jan. 18.
Critics have said “at its best Luv shows the kind of heart and intelligence that is always welcome – and often missing – in American movies.” (New York Times)
The title is a play on several aspects of the film about an 11-year-old boy who gets a crash course in what it means to be a man when he spends a day with the uncle he idolizes.
With his mother in rehab and his father out of the picture, young Woody Watson (Michael Rainey Jr.) lives with his grandmother (Lonette McKee) in suburban Baltimore and longs for his family to be reunited. His charismatic Uncle Vincent (Common) has recently returned home after eight years in prison, determined to straighten out his life by opening a high-end crab shack that will establish him as a solid citizen with a legitimate future.
One day, instead of dropping Woody off at school, Vincent decides to give the boy a tutorial on how a man gets things done. After a trip to a tailor to get Woody a custom-fitted suit, the pair heads to the bank to sign off on the loan Vincent needs to fulfill his dreams. But when his meeting with a bank officer puts the brakes on his plans, Vincent has no one to turn to for help but his former associates, including Baltimore crime boss Mr. Fish (Dennis Haysbert) and his brother Arthur (Danny Glover).
In an interview with reporters, Common said in real life he never had the strife in his life like his Uncle Vincent character in the movie but he knows plenty of others – including people he associated with on the South Side of Chicago – who did.
“The script is not close to what I lived, but I’ve been around the streets of Chicago and from my experiences with the people I’ve been around those are true-life emotions, thoughts, stories, characters – those people are real,” said the rapper and actor who’s played alongside Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe (American Gangster)
“When we screened the movie in Chicago it was people there who were like ‘man, that’s my life on that screen,’” he said.
In LUV, a poignant and gritty coming-of-age story featuring standout performances by Common, Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert, Charles S. Dutton and newcomer Michael Rainey Jr.
Uncle Vincent’s gritty actions are an about-face to the conscious-driven messages pens and spits out in the lyrics of his hip hop music.
But the irony is an art form, he said, and even a attempt at humanity.
“As an actor, I wanted to take on characters. I didn’t really want it to be like all based around what Common thinks or Common’s mentality, he said. “Sometimes I just want to play characters and show the humanity in them. Just because somebody was a former criminal or somebody who has been in jail or been doing street things doesn’t mean they’re a bad person.”
Common praises his young co-star in the film, saying Rainey Jr. brings the “purest” performance he can to the project.
“When you got somebody who’s that talented you just allow them to be great and your bring your greatness to it. And those two stars come together and bring out something even brighter,” said Common.
Directed by Sheldon Candis from a script by Candis and Justin Wilson, LUV features extraordinary performances by Common (American Gangster, Hell on Wheels), Michael Rainey Jr. (Un altro mondo), Charles S. Dutton (The Obama Effect, Fame), Dennis Haysbert (Far from Heaven, 24), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, 2012), Meagan Good (Stomp the Yard, Californication), Lonette McKee (Malcolm X, Honey), Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire).