Travel Films Week: ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’

How Stella Got Her Groove Back film poster.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back is based on Terry McMillan’s bestselling novel of the same name and stars two wonderful actresses as best friends–Academy Award nominated Angela Bassett playing strong, determined Stella and Academy Award winning Whoopi Goldberg as hilarious, sassy Delilah. Actor Taye Diggs is Winston, Stella’s Jamaican “groove.”
Hard-working, single mother Stella is devoted to work and parenthood, but just four minutes into the film, her two sisters claim to know what’s best for her.
“You need a husband and your son needs a father,” blasts Angela, Stella’s married and pregnant sister.
“Had him, got rid of him, so glad I did,” Stella retorts.
While family is obsessed with this absurd logic that men are the Holy Grail to women, it’s fun spirited Delilah that demands Stella and she take a nice little getaway to scenic Jamaica together–Stella’s own original idea.

Delilah (Whoopi Goldberg) and Stella (Angela Bassett) checking out the Jamaican view.

“You haven’t been anywhere since I was a natural blonde!” Delilah screams over the phone. One cannot help but applaud Goldberg’s humorous quips of persuasion, especially seeing as she and Bassett have great chemistry as female comrades. It’s an addictive pleasure to see African American women engaged in these quintessential friendships onscreen and no grand schemes of bitterness, jealousy, and hatred so typically written.
Amongst beautiful, luscious, tropical settings where the twosome have their adventure, Stella meets the much younger Winston and the two engage in a steamy affair.
But during all the drama, Delilah is undergoing a private health crisis and Stella learns of it very late.
Delilah and Stella’s hospital scenes are terms of bittersweet endearment and still make eyes water, for this sisterhood bond is perhaps remarkably closer than the biological glue between Stella and her two siblings. When Stella lays beside Delilah in the white bed and they sing in raspy voices laced with sorrow, both of their hearts are visibly breaking onscreen. Cancer has torn them asunder, ripped the cords of one of the film’s most genuine core relationships and has ultimately broken Stella.
She lost her best friend.
Winston (Taye Diggs) is supposedly Stella’s (Angela Bassett) “groove.”

The ending came with a typical Hollywood bow–tied much too neatly.
“Not every woman needs a man in her life,” Stella had pretty much uttered in the film’s beginning.
But finality proved her to be incorrect.
She clung and frequently apologized to Winston–a childish man that felt threatened by her success and leeched onto her strength. Their vast age difference proved to be a demolition factor; always leaving when times were too rough, insipid, weak-minded Winston was everything opposite of Stella’s majestic character.
It was better suited that Winston return to Jamaica alone while Stella focused on goals for her bright future as an independent and savvy businesswoman. Director’s camera focused on their awkward looks and wet eyes in that last, crushing love scene reeking of desperate closure and unspoken understanding–a solid presentation that the “groove” dwindled.
For Stella to be at the airport and saying “yes” to Winston’s marriage proposal seemed an unbelievable notion.

Stella (Angela Bassett) should have kept Winston as a vacation fling.

Winston should have stayed primarily a Jamaican rendezvous.
Yes. It is always a joyful occasion to see African American romances onscreen (it’s incredibly rare to feature an all African American cast in this genre–unless it’s Tyler Perry related grrrrr!) and not have courtships be the overplayed “thin line between love and hate” stereotype, but Stella’s relationship with Winston wasn’t exactly great as it progressed to turbulent fights and public screaming matches. 
By the film’s cheesy end, I only wished for Delilah’s ghost to visit Stella and continue their friendship in a spiritual manner as Stella embarked on her personal quest. Perhaps even treating herself to more splendid travels and finding other pursuits called “fun” that don’t involve young men.
Winston isn’t worth being the pot of gold at the end of Stella’s rainbow, much less her “groove.”