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‘Black Coffee’: Brewing positive messages in a gentle romance

Robert (DarrDewitt Henson) Morgan (Gabrielle Dennis) make connecti“Black Coffee.”  |   RLJ ENTERTAINMENT

Robert (Darrin Dewitt Henson) and Morgan (Gabrielle Dennis) make a connection in “Black Coffee.” | RLJ ENTERTAINMENT

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Robert Darrin Dewitt Henson

Morgan Gabrielle Dennis

Hill Lamman Rucker

Mita Erica Hubbard

RLJ Entertainment presents a film written and directed by Mark Harris. Running time: 105 minutes. Rated PG (for language including some sexual references, and for thematic material). Opens Friday at AMC Country Club Hills 16 and AMC Crestwood 18.

Updated: February 11, 2014 6:10AM

‘Black Coffee,” a mild romantic comedy/drama written and directed by Englewood-born Mark Harris, begins on a very bad day for its central character, Robert (Darrin Dewitt Henson). He’s fired from his job at a house painting company while also being dumped by his girlfriend of two years, dimwitted Mita (Erica Hubbard), who goes where the money is — into the arms of his former boss.

In practically the next scene, Robert meets the woman he’s meant to be with, but there are many rom-com (and dramatic) hoops to jump through before that relationship gains any momentum. From their first meet-cute they have an easy chemistry.

Morgan (Gabrielle Dennis) is a lawyer trying to establish her own firm while also putting distance between herself and ex-husband Hill (Lamman Rucker), who still wants to “work things out.” But after some semi-flirting, Morgan is intrigued and hires Robert to paint her new offices.

Morgan talks like an independent woman who knows where she is going and what she wants, so it’s just odd that she allows Hill to have so much say in her life. And why Robert would put up with the self-involved Mita for so long also defies logic.

Injections of humor from Christian Keyes as slick salesman Julian, Richard Gallion as bookstore owner Duke and Hubbard as the aforementioned ex give the film some needed life.

Whether it was meant to or not, “Black Coffee” rests easily within the category of faith-based films, where it should find an audience. There’s nothing objectionable here; even the innocent first kiss doesn’t come until around the one-hour mark. The positive messages involving characters searching for love and purpose in life are well thought out, but presented in a way that is just too genial and even-handed. No one ever gets really angry or passionate, and the result is a film that sometimes feels stilted.

But in the end, there’s nothing wrong with an overly positive outlook on relationships, and Harris has a nice hand with bits of dialogue that do ring true. In one particularly effective scene, Robert and Morgan talk about what they are looking for in a partner. It’s a truthful moment as they verbally pace around each other and open up about the things that really matter. By this scene alone, you know they are going to live happily every after.

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