Christopher Scott Cherot, who wrote, directed and stars in his feature debut, "Hav Plenty," has followed the Golden Rule of all budding authors: Write what you know.
The directive has served him well, for the most part. "Hav Plenty" unfolds with the energy and irreverent humor that only real life can inspire. (Better yet, as the film's self-referential ending indicates, it has resulted in a lucrative deal between Cherot and Miramax Films. Ain't love grand?)
But "Hav Plenty" also suffers from its close proximity to an unhappy episode in Cherot's life, especially where its bitter characterizations of women are concerned. Although "Hav Plenty" is bursting with promising talent -- from Cherot himself to his stunningly attractive co-stars -- and although it throws some fresh angles on the enduring tug of war between fear and desire, the film might have benefited from a little bit of temporal and emotional distance on the part of the filmmaker.
Cherot, who only agreed to appear in his own film when his star dropped out, plays Lee Plenty, an aspiring writer who has taken a writerly vow of poverty, going so far as to live in his car.
"Hav Plenty" begins on New Year's Eve, when Lee is invited to a party at the home of Havilland Savage (Chenoa Maxwell), an old friend who alternately infuriates and charms him with her materialistic habits and mercurial moods.
During Lee's stay at Hav's, which will stretch into a days-long marathon despite his best efforts to escape, he will encounter Hav's boy-crazy, French-speaking best friend Caroline (Tammi Katherine Jones), Hav's newlywed sister Leigh Darling (Robinne Lee) and Hav's grandmother (Betty Vaughn), who predicts Lee and Hav will marry. But most of all he will encounter Hav, whose attitude toward him runs hot, cold and everything in between.
"Hav Plenty" reflects the resourcefulness and energy of the best micro-budget pictures. Cherot brings disarming grace to his disheveled character, and Robinne Lee handles the role of Hav's little sister with lovely equanimity. Chenoa Maxwell, a classic beauty with a resemblance to Sandra Bullock, tries valiantly to bring some sympathy to the spoiled and impetuous Hav. And the terrific Hill Harper -- best known for his work in Spike Lee's movies -- shows up in a hilarious cameo as an arrogant rap star whose tag line is a mellow "Love 40, baby."
For all it has going for it, "Hav Plenty" is vexed by one big problem: its main character. Granted, Maxwell is convincing as a young woman torn between material values and more down-to-earth virtues like hearth and home. But Cherot's script doesn't deepen Hav's character enough for the audience to understand Lee's obsession with her. Still, Cherot has distinguished himself with lively writing, clever editing and some funny visual tricks.
With a fabulous soundtrack supervised by Tracey Edmonds, "Hav Plenty" lilts along with pleasant aplomb and originality, the perfect summer date story of love, loss and triumph -- in the form of a multi-picture movie deal.
Starring Chenoa Maxwell, Christopher Scott Cherot, Tammi Katherine Jones, Robinne Lee, Hill Harper
Directed by Christopher Scott Cherot
Rated R (strong language)
Released by Miramax Films
Sun score ** 1/2
Pub Date: 6/19/98