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Love takes flight in David E. Talbert’s ‘Baggage Claim’

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Love takes flight in David E. Talbert’s ‘Baggage Claim’
Djimon Hounsou (L) and Paula Patton (R) in Baggage Claim.

It’s all about love – searching for love, finding love and being in love in David E. Talbert’s Fox Searchlight romantic comedy Baggage Claim, based on his 2003 book of the same name. The lighthearted romantic comedy stars Paula Patton (2 Guns, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and Jumping the Broom) as flight attendant Montana Moore, determined to find Mr. Right and get engaged before her younger sister Sheree (Lauren London) walks down the aisle in 30 days. Moore uses her airline connections to “accidentally” meet up with eligible ex-boyfriends and potential suitors. Montana racks up more than 30,000 miles flying all around the country searching for the perfect guy.

Aiding Montana in her search (and providing comic relief) are fellow flight attendants Sam, played by Adam Brody (Lovelace and Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and Gail, played by three-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Jill Scott.

Talbert met Patton in 2008, after shooting his first feature film First Sunday (which starred Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan and Katt Williams). Talbert says, “She was so bubbly and light.” He knew she was Montana Moore even back then. Talbert also says that Montana Moore is his favorite character he’s ever created and that “Paula is a mix of Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts all mixed up into one.”

Talbert says “I’m in love with a beautiful woman for 15 years. I don’t write from it being a fantasy. Fortunately, I write from it being a reality.” His wife Lyn Sison-Talbert is also an executive producer on the film and has a small role opposite Boris Kodjoe.

The writer, producer and director began his career in the world of theater. In fact, the Los Angeles Times has labeled Talbert “one of the most prolific theatre makers in America.”

Talbert has written and directed 14 nationally acclaimed touring productions that have garnered 24 NAACP Image Award nominations, winning Best Playwright of the Year for The Fabric of a Man. In 2007, Talbert received the New York Literary Award for Best Playwright of the Year for Love in the Nick of Tyme. Most recently, he received the prestigious NAACP Trailblazer Award for his groundbreaking accomplishments in theater.

Over the years, Patton, who “loves, loves romantic comedies,” kept checking in with Talbert to see if there was any progress in getting the film made. She says, “I read the screenplay when I was making the film Just Wright with Queen Latifah. I laughed out loud and I hadn’t read the book yet.” Finally, they received word in 2010 that the screenplay was coming to the big screen. Patton says, “This has been a dream come true, a labor of love and a complete passion project for both of us.”

Baggage Claim boasts a talented ensemble cast, including: Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Boris Kodjoe, Trey Songz, Jenifer Lewis, Affion Crockett, Christina Milian and Djimon Honsou. Of the cast, Talbert says, “Every beautiful person in Hollywood is in this movie.”

Derek Luke, who stars as William Wright, Montana’s best friend, neighbor and confidant, says when he read the role of William, he “just kind of connected.” He adds, “I related to William because every day as an actor you get to meet people. You get to meet men. Men have become my platform and I get to talk to men on every level, from every hood from every suburb. … With just men of color I always want to sow a good seed on film. It has nothing to do with being typecast. It’s just the image of black men. So many people have given me a chance to roll and I feel like in that chance I want to aspire. My mom groomed me as William so I had to play him.”

Patton (who signed off on every casting choice for the movie), says, “Derek is an amazing actor. He really loves his wife and you have such respect for her. It just emanates from him and there’s this warmth. We immediately clicked. There’s sweetness, innocence, a kindness in his heart.”

Both Patton and Talbert have nothing but high praise for Luke. Jokingly, Talbert says “Derek has never smiled in a movie before. This is the first movie that Derek has smiled in his career. When he smiles, he lights up the world.” The playwright describes Luke as having that “everyman quality … this grounding quality that he has.” Jenifer Lewis, who plays Catherine, Patton’s five-times-married mother in the film, has nothing but high praise for her co-stars and for Talbert. “I’ve never seen men who love their wives so. I admire that.”

Ultimately, Baggage Claim is about love and the search for that someone right, but the movie makes it clear that finding that someone right in oneself is important too. Patton says, “There are two happy endings…. It’s about a woman who stands up to her family, who says I don’t care what you think anymore and from this journey comes to love herself.”

The second happy ending happens when she’s stopped looking for a man and “he comes along.” Patton also appreciates the fact that “the man she meets knows all her baggage and loves her in spite of that.”

Baggage Claim opens in theaters nation-wide on Sept. 27.