‘Her Only Choice’ is a movie that stars Denise Boutte. This is a Denise Boutte appreciation post
OPINION: Sometimes you just have to give a person their flowers.
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The first thing that drew me into watching Her Only Choice was the number of people of note starring in the movie. We have Vanessa Bell Calloway, Elise Neal, Leon, Timon Kyle Durrett (a personal favorite from way back), Tamara Tunie and Denise Boutte, who was an absolute joy to watch as Trina in Why Did I Get Married? and Tina in N-Secure, a movie that, quite possibly, I’m the only person to both have seen in theaters AND purchased the DVD.
N-Secure was a terrible, terrible movie, by the way.
Anyway, before we get to the flowers, let me tell you a little something about this here movie, Her Only Choice. Boutte plays Tasha, a 30-year-school teacher (there’s a little tomfoolery with some timelines here, but I’ll get there) who’s married to her neighborhood best friend, Bernie (Durrett). Her mother passed away from breast cancer when she was 10, and she was raised by her single father, Melvin (Leon), and for a time, her mother’s best friend, Tasha (Tunie).
On her 30th birthday—which, according to the VHS tape her father plays of her birth, would be July 25, 2018—she goes to teach at school (I have no idea what school is in session in July, hence the tomfoolery with the timeline) and throws up in a trash can. At her birthday dinner later that night, she passes out. Now, what we find out after her husband suggests she take a pregnancy test, is that she’s been told for years by doctors that they couldn’t have children. But she agrees to go to the doctor anyway, where she finds out that she’s pregnant (yay) but also that she has a tumor on her breast and they need to do a biopsy. She’s so excited about being pregnant until finding out the tumor is malignant (she’s at stage 2 for breast cancer), at which point, the doctor recommends that she terminate the baby so that she can start chemotherapy treatments to save her life.
Tasha then finds out from another doctor that there is a way she can have the baby and do chemo; she has to have a mastectomy. The baby should be fine, but her prognosis isn’t as clear, but they must hope for the best. Her father and husband both want her to just do what it would take to keep her alive, but she’s wanted a baby so badly that she ultimately decides to risk it all to have this baby. SPOILER ALERT: She has the baby, she eventually goes into remission, and her father marries Brenda, her mother’s best friend (they’d been dating off and on for some years; that’s a whole different storyline).
Admittedly, I wasn’t loving this movie at first. I have no good reason, but this movie is more aspirational than entertaining, so I had to kind of warm up to it, and one thing that helped me do that was Denise Boutte. For one, she’s gorgeous in this movie (and in real life), but secondly, at age 36 (at the time, according to the world’s most accurate data source), she convincingly played a 19ish-year-old, and a 30-year-old, with such youthful and accurate energy, I found myself looking up the rest of her movies while watching the film. The 19-year-old really stood out because of the sort of wistful naivete she landed in the scenes. I was like, “I actually believe she’s this young.” And it’s not like they did much makeup-wise; she just…nailed it. And then she looked and played a convincing 30-year-old, which makes sense; she’s in her mid-30s at this point, but she has some great genes, clearly.
But most importantly, she had to play and embody a woman going through chemo after having a baby and with the makeup and the acting, she did a really, really good job. I was actually impressed and felt like she left nothing on the table for the performance, and by the time the movie was over, I told my wife that “Tasha delivered a really, really good performance in this movie. I might actually watch it again”—the highest compliment you can give a movie.
I’ve been browsing her IMDb for movies and television shows where she was featured that I haven’t seen. I knew her from several things I’ve watched, but now I’m all in. So Denise Boutte, I’m all in. I will now add her to the searches on my streaming services; if I see a movie or show with her in it, now I’m watching.
Please, have these flowers. You deserve them.
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).
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