Reviews

Not Easily Broken

Renee Mora

For all its references to spirituality, Not Easily Broken is fixated on an earthly bond, between a good man and the good woman who defines him.


Not Easily Broken

Director: Bill Duke
Cast: Maeve Quinlan, Cannon Jay, Kevin Hart, Morris Chestnut, Wood Harris
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Screen Gems (Sony)
First date: 2009
US Release Date: 2009-01-09 (General release)
Website
Trailer
And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

-- Ecclesiastes 4:12

When David (Morris Chestnut) met Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) in college, he recognized right away that she was a good woman. So, in his own words, he "did what a good man does when he finds a good woman." He married her. The wedding scene opens Not Easily Broken, a dreamy flashback under David's voiceover: she was going to make it big in real estate, he'd fulfill his major league baseball dreams, and they would build a family together. The bishop presiding over the ceremony drapes a braided cord over their shoulders as he warns, "Life is going to try and knock you down, but a cord of three strands is not easily broken." God, it is clear, is the third strand in their marriage.

This first scene suggests that Not easily Broken will follow standard marital ups and downs, as well as the couple's spiritual journey. However, Not Easily Broken is far less concerned with understanding and defining that third strand than it is fixated on the other two: a good man and the good woman who defines him.

More than 10 years into the marriage, David's plans have long since been derailed by a career-ending knee injury. Instead, he's got a small construction company, his face reflecting resignation and discontent. He distracts himself by coaching a Little League team of at-risk kids, whom Clarice resentfully refers to as "gangstas in training." By contrast, Clarice has nearly everything she ever wanted: the big beautiful house, successful career (she's recently been named salesperson of the year at her real estate firm). She's also put off having kids, another disappointment for her husband. Clarice dismisses his dissatisfaction, pointing out that they have nothing to be unhappy about, given their material success.

The film overtly sympathizes with David, making Clarice the villain. She is shallow, insensitive, and overly ambitious, while he somehow comes across not as whipped, but rather, as a saint for putting up with her. We see that he wants to be a good man, but she has not lived up to her end of the bargain. The dynamic changes when a car accident sidelines Clarice's career. David sees his opportunity to "work, cultivate and protect." This is what men since Adam are designed to do, he explains. He sees Clarice as a product of a world where women "started becoming their own heroes and... took away a man's reason for being a man."

Enter Clarice's mother Mary (Jenifer Lewis), who moves in to help with her recovery and, by the way, blame David for the accident. Mother and daughter form their own little unit standing against him, fulfilling the first part of the scripture that the bishop was referring to in his homily: "And if somebody overpowers one person, two can resist him." Mary, a man-hating caricature, forces the wedge between David and Clarice to the point where she flatly tells her daughter to "throw his ass out."

The film repeatedly positions David in different groups of three, alluding to that three-stranded cord. When David appears with his two buddies, womanizing Brock (Eddie Cibrian) and sensitive Tree (Kevin Brock), he is the balanced middle, less aggressive than Brock but manlier than Tree, whose wife chides him for being "too in touch with his feminine side." When he intervenes in the relationship between thuggish former friend Darnell (Wood Harris) and his son Darius (Kwame Boatang), David plays father figure to both, but it's hard to forget he doesn’t have his own child. His most satisfying, if imperfect, relationship is with Clarice's physical therapist, single mother Julie (Maeve Quinlan) and her son Bryson (Cannon Jay). She is almost immediately in need of a hero, starting when her car breaks down and ending when she faces a tragedy in her own life.

Not Easily Broken wraps up neatly, through a series of conventional images: lonely ponderings on a church pew, dazzling sunbeams breaking through the clouds when realization finally comes. While it's clear that David needs to work, cultivate, and protect in order to be a good man, it seems the woman needs only to recognize him as such and present herself as the willing, and preferably grateful, recipient of his goodness.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.