Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Singleton|
Dwight Alanzo Williams
|Written by||John Singleton|
|Music by||Stanley Clarke|
|Cinematography||Peter Lyons Collister|
|Edited by||Bruce Cannon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$27 million|
Poetic Justice is a 1993 American romantic drama film written and directed by John Singleton and starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur with Regina King and Joe Torry. In the film, the main character Justice writes poems which she recites throughout the film. The poems featured were written by Maya Angelou, and Angelou also appears in the film as one of the three elderly sisters whom the characters meet at a roadside family reunion. The Last Poets make an appearance toward the end of the film.
Poetic Justice reached #1 in the box office its opening weekend, grossing $11,728,455. It eventually grossed a total of $27,515,786. Jackson received nominations for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, with the Billboard Hot 100 number one song, "Again". It was later referenced in Kendrick Lamar's single "Poetic Justice", which was titled after and based on the film. The song sampled Jackson's "Any Time, Any Place."
Despite mixed reviews from critics, the film is considered a cult film especially for the performances.
Justice (Janet Jackson) is a young woman living in South Central, Los Angeles. She was named Justice by her late mother, who gave birth to her while attending law school. After the shooting death of her boyfriend Markell (Q-Tip), Justice falls into a deep depression. She spends the majority of her time in the house that she inherited from her grandmother, with her cat White Boy, only going out to her job at a local hair salon. Justice is a talented poet, and she reads many of her poems throughout the course of the film, both to other characters and in voice over.
Justice is at the hair salon working one day when a young postal clerk named Lucky (Tupac Shakur) comes in and begins flirting with her. She rebuffs his advances with the help of her female boss; the two women pretend to be lesbians and mock Lucky with their "relationship".
Lucky has also had tragedy in his life: his main focus is caring for his young daughter Keisha. He had to forcibly remove her from the care of her mother, Angel, a crack addict who was using drugs and having sex with her drug dealer while leaving the child unattended in the apartment. Lucky dreams of a professional career in music and shows considerable promise, but he insists that his cousin is the true talent.
Justice's friend Iesha (Regina King) manages to talk Justice into taking a road trip to Oakland with Iesha's boyfriend, Chicago (Joe Torry), Lucky's co-worker at the post office. Justice warily accepts, mainly because she has to go to Oakland for a hair show and her car had stopped working at the last minute. Unbeknownst to Justice, Lucky is also on the trip, and she will now be sharing a postal van with him and their two mutual friends. Initially they argue, but they soften towards each other as they discover their similarities over the course of the film.
The foursome make a couple of detours, the first being a family reunion barbecue they see signs for on the road. Here it becomes apparent (although there were ample hints earlier) that Iesha and Chicago's relationship is troubled. Iesha openly flirts with other men at the barbecue, while Chicago broods watching her behavior. Iesha and Chicago argue in the mailtruck until Justice talks to Iesha about her behavior with alcohol. Iesha throws up and cries on Justice and apologizes to her. The second stop is a beach where each of the four characters contemplate their separate situations in internal monologues. Next, they stop at an African Cultural Fair where Lucky and Justice grow closer as they discuss their lives. After leaving the fair, the friction between Chicago and Iesha explodes when Iesha informs Chicago that she has been seeing someone on the side, and he physically attacks her. Lucky initially decides not to get involved in the fight until Justice defends Iesha by kicking Chicago in the groin, and Chicago turns his physical brutality at Justice in retaliation. Lucky, Justice, along with a bleeding and shaken Iesha leave Chicago by the side of the road and continue on their journey.
Lucky stops the postal van at a beach, and Justice goes to see what's wrong. She begins opening up to him about her life, and Lucky becomes sympathetic. They share a kiss, and Justice walks away apparently unsure of her feelings for Lucky. She goes back to him, and kiss again.
When the now-threesome arrive in Oakland, they are met with the news that Lucky's cousin, with whom he had been working on recording music, has been killed. Lucky blames himself for not being in Oakland sooner, believing he could have prevented the shooting had he been in town. He turns his anger on Justice, angrily blaming her for distracting him while they were on the road. Jessie gives Justice and Iesha advice about men before the hair show. Lucky's uncle and aunt give Lucky his cousin's recording equipment. Lucky decides not to come back to work and to take care of Keisha.
Some months have passed, and Lucky meets up with Justice again back at the hair salon, just at the moment he brings in his daughter Keisha. Lucky is remorseful over his conduct in Oakland and the cruel words he said to Justice there, and apologizes. She smiles at him and they share a passionate kiss. Justice smiles coyly, and then turns her attention to Keisha, fussing over her hair. Justice and Lucky's eyes meet over Keisha's head and they smile, their connection as strong as ever.
On July 23, 2013, John Singleton spoke with writer Lathleen Ade-Brown for Essence magazine and discussed the 20th anniversary of the film. The interview mentioned that in 1993, black female leads were rare and he wanted to give a voice to young African American women. He also revealed whose idea it was for Janet Jackson to wear the now iconic box braid extensions: "That was a collaboration between myself, Janet, [dance choreographer] Fatima Robinson and a dancer named Jossie Harris. Jossie had the braids in Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time" video, which I directed. I brought her and Fatima and a couple of other dancers over to hang out with Janet and they all became friends. I said, "Why don't we try and do Janet's hair like Jossie's hair?" We got the hairstyle from Harlem and just put it in a West Coast movie.".Jada Pinkett Smith, Lisa Bonet, Monica Calhoun and many other popular actresses auditioned for the role of Justice, though Singleton knew from the script's draft that the role was solely intended for Janet Jackson. Rapper Ice Cube was offered the lead role of Lucky, but turned it down, stating that he was not in a point in his career that he would play in romantic movies. The movie was filmed in 1992.
According to Box Office Mojo, Poetic Justice made $27,515,786 in the domestic box office with the budget being $14,000,000. For its opening weekend it opened at #1 with over $11,000,000 in ticket sales. It ranked #20 for the year of 1993 openings and #21 for highest R-rated movies of 1993.
|Los Angeles Times||Mixed|
|The New York Times||Mixed|
Upon its release, Poetic Justice received mixed to positive reviews with most critics comparing it to the critically acclaimed film, also by Singleton, Boyz N the Hood. Much of the acclaim was directed to the performances by both Jackson and Shakur, with criticism stemming from the writing and story line.
The film currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews.
|Poetic Justice: Music from the Motion Picture|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||June 29, 1993|
West Coast hip hop
New Deal Music|
|Singles from Poetic Justice: Music from the Motion Picture|
The soundtrack album was released on June 29, 1993, through Epic Records' sub-label, Epic Soundtrax, and consisted of a blend of hip hop and contemporary R&B. The album was a success, making it 23 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Gold by the RIAA on August 25, 1993.
Three charting singles were released from the album: "Indo Smoke" by Mista Grimm, "Get It Up" by TLC, and "Call Me a Mack" by Usher, the latter of which was Usher's first official appearance on a song at the age of 14.
The soundtrack also has the Stevie Wonder song "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer", a track that was originally on his 1970 Motown Records album Where I'm Coming From. The song 2Pac, recorded for the film "Definition of a Thug Nigga", later appeared on the 1997 posthumous album R U Still Down? (Remember Me) by Tupac Shakur.
Due to the film's casting of two major music stars of the time, there was a lot of hype surrounding the release of the movie. Many were excited to see how the dynamic between Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur would manifest itself in the film both visually and musically. On the soundtrack, each artist was given a single song. Tupac's "Definition of a Thug Nigga" is an example of braggadocios, violent rap music. The song conflates lyrics of degrading women with aggressive threats and discussions of firearms. Conversely, Janet Jackson's "Again" details the story of a woman returning to the man she loved after he betrayed her. The song is a returning victim narrative without any explicit mentions of physical and emotional abuse (just general wrongdoing).
The film was scored by musician Stanley Clarke.