Movie Review: Watermelon Man (1970)

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I’m going to revamp my movie reviews by not having them be so long and get more to the heart of the matter.  Basically, have it free flowing and not so regimented.  I saw Watermelon Man on a movie channel a while back.  I watched a bit of it and thought what a weird movie for the time.  It was filmed in the late 1960s and takes place around the same time.  I had planned to watch it later and saw it on Amazon (I think).  It’s about a White man who woke up as a Black man in a White neighborhood with a traditional family of wife and two kids.  This movie has an odd way of turning things on its side and spinning it dizzily around.  It deals with internal and external racism.  The N word is dropped more than a few times.  If you can get past this (to an extent), it has some great scene sequences and message by the end of it.  The running and bus sequence shots come to mind. 

The heart of Watermelon Man is in the transformation Jeff Gerber goes through and as he accepts his new status and what he does with it.  His wife, Althea, for being a liberal hearted woman has her own prejudices to reconcile.  How he is treated by others in his family and coworkers is clearly different.  Some parts were difficult to watch because of the racist thoughts and actions spattered throughout it, and yet it had a message by the end of it and that is the color of your skin shouldn’t be the primary focus but often times it’s the only thing people see.  The movie’s genius is the willingness to include the most ridiculous solutions to Jeff’s newfound problem (what he obviously views as a handicap) and the karma that arises when you have little understanding outside the bubble you live in.  It is one hour and 40 minutes long and rated R.  It is written by Herman Raucher and directed by Melvin Van Peebles.  Yes, this is Mario Van Pebbles dad.  Godfrey Cambridge and Estelle Parsons play Jeff and Althea Gerber.  It’s an interesting movie in that it pushes it just enough beyond comfortable (from a cinematic viewpoint) but not so far that you turn it off.

I rate Watermelon Man Four Fingers. It is GREAT at 90%.

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