28 Days of Black Movies: ‘Black Coffee’ is not the next superhero movie but it is a fun little rom-com that features Christian Keyes, so all is well

OPINION: It’s a rom-com that is primarily saved by the comedy of Erica Hubbard and Christian Keyes and is only tangentially related to coffee.

Christian Keyes and Darrin Dewitt Henson in "Black Coffee." (Imagine Entertainment)

Black Coffee is not a particularly good movie. It is highly entertaining, but if you’re a person who spends time breaking down dialogue and plot, well, this ain’t your film; there is nothing to break down. But if you’re a person who enjoys shenanigans and overacting for no apparent reason, oddly placed music and storylines that make no sense but are fun, then Black Coffee is your jam through and through. 

Black Coffee is my jam. It also stars a litany of my favorite Black television and movie all-stars: Darrin Dewitt Henson, Gabrielle Dennis, Erica Hubbard and Lamman Rucker. And perhaps one of the most underappreciated actors in the game today: Christian Keyes.

This is a Christian Keyes appreciation post. 

You see, Christian Keyes isn’t the star of this movie—unlike many other movies; peep his IMDB page—but he stands out because Christian Keyes is hilarious. For instance, in Black Coffee, he plays Julian, cousin to Robert (Henson) and provides all of the sage advice and comedic moments you could possibly ask for. Basically, he’s a pal and a confidant, and I know you love pals and confidants. He’s the cousin who gives advice but also always needs something to eat. He’s the ladies’ man but also the one who can give you good advice when it comes to the lady in your life. And he does it with flair. 

For instance, in a movie where Henson, Dennis and Rucker give more “serious” performances, Hubbard and Keyes come through with pure comedy. And Keyes is good for that type of thing in movies. He has a certain sincerity to this acting that always makes you want to root for him. Plus, he’s always willing to go “there” with his roles, a quite endearing quality.

Erica Hubbard and Lamman Rucker in “Black Coffee.” (Image Entertainment)

In Black Coffee, Keyes’ character Julian is a coffee distributor who either owns his own brand or is doing his own version of Tahitian Noni—I had several family members selling Tahitian Noni; there is nothing like getting jammed up at a family reunion by a family member trying to convince you to both buy AND get in on the business end of a drink that I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with Tahiti—it’s not entirely clear. Perhaps he’s trying to sell enough to make his way to Shark Tank; at one point, he tells Robert that he’s made over $50,000 in the past six months pushing coffee. For the record, as somebody who spends an inordinate amount of time watching Shark Tank, if his year stayed that good until the end, I truly believe he could have had a shot at a deal with Lori Greiner

So while Julian is out here hawking coffee, literally in front of his apartment (or his apartment complex, it’s not entirely clear), Robert is trying to woo Morgan (Dennis). And since he lost his job as a painter at the company his father founded—he apparently is bad at business and ran the business into the ground, and it was saved by the new owner, his friend who fires him—Julian is constantly trying to get him to both stay away from his ex-girlfriend Meta (Hubbard) and get his life and business acumen together so that Morgan will know he’s serious and thus take him serious as a dating prospect. 

Look, it’s a movie that’s heavy on respectability politics and being a quality man for a woman and also does quite a bit of mansplaining of women. However, I think this is how many men talk in private, but because of the comedy that Christian Keyes brings, I think it’s a worthy watch. Will you cringe while watching it? Yes, you will. I watched it recently with my wife, and she groaned several times at the screen because of the convo and the feigned “high-value man” talk dancing around the periphery of the movie. 

Anyway, by its conclusion, Robert and Morgan are together and opening restaurants (I’m not sure why, for the record; he’s a painter and she’s a lawyer), and they want Julian to be the official supplier for their third store. I think maybe coffee was some kind of proxy for entrepreneurship and ambition. I don’t know. The movie kind of forced the coffee thing, but like I said, because Christian Keyes is in being funny and showing up just when you need comedy, all is well. If you happen to be perusing one of the streaming services you watch and want to watch a movie with coffee in the title that really isn’t about coffee at all, Black Coffee is your jam. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).