American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
She is the editor of an important music magazine. He produces hip-hop for a major label. They've been best friends since childhood, but never more than that, although they came close a few times. Now, as both approach 30, Dre (Taye Diggs) feels his career has lost its way. And Sidney (Sanaa Lathan) is working so hard she doesn't have time for romance: "You're turning into a Terry McMillan character," her girlfriend Francine warns her.
"Brown Sugar," which charts romantic passages in these lives, is a romantic comedy, yes, but one with characters who think and talk about their goals, and are working on hard decisions. For both Sidney and Dre, hip-hop music symbolizes a kind of perfect adolescent innocence, a purity they're trying to return to as more cynical adults.
The first question Sidney asks an interview subject is always, "How did you fall in love with hip-hop?" For her, it was July 18, 1984, when she discovered for the first time a form that combined music, rhythm, performance and poetry. Dre, her best buddy even then, grew up to become an important hip-hop producer, working for a label that compromised its standards as it became more successful. Now he's faced with the prospect of producing "Rin and Tin," one white, one black, who bill themselves as "The Hip-Hop Dalmatians." Dre gets engaged to the beautiful Reese (Nicole Ari Parker). Sidney can't believe he'll marry her, but can't admit she loves him--although she comes close on the night before their wedding. Francine (Queen Latifah) lectures her to declare her love: "You'll get the buddy and the booty!" When Dre quits his job rather than work with the Dalmatians, he turns instinctively to Sidney for advice, and Reese begins to understand that she's sharing his heart.
Sidney, meanwhile, interviews the hunky athlete Kelby Dawson (Boris Kodjoe), and soon they're engaged. Is this the real thing, or a rebound? Dre still needs her for encouragement, as he pursues a hip-hop taxi driver named Chris V (Mos Def), who he believes has potential to return the form to its roots. And Chris, articulate in his music but lacking confidence in his life, doesn't have the nerve to ask out Francine.