Sabrina Watson and Jason Taylor are in love. We know they’re in love because they date and kiss and listen to El DeBarge tunes. They’re even getting married. And love conquers all. Right?
Pam Taylor sure hopes so. Pam is Jason’s mother, and she loves her boy ever so much. She wants the best for him and knows that she knows what he needs, even when he doesn’t know himself. And if well-to-do Sabrina really is wonderful enough and charming enough and good enough for her son, well, she’ll be the first to congratulate the happy couple.
‘Course, Pam has no clue whether Sabrina’s all that and a box of Frosted Flakes, too. They’ve never met each other. That couldn’t be Jason’s fault … her darling little boy wouldn’t disrespect her like that. Must be Sabrina. Yes, it must be, what with her designer clothes and six-figure income and hoity-toity talk. Her pretty little heels are probably too dainty to visit Jason’s old neighborhood. Probably she thinks she’s too good for poor old Pam. Too rich. Too educated. She just wants to sweep Jason up and leave poor Pam all alo—
No, no. Pam isn’t going to think about that. And she’s not going to hold that slight—as terrible as it is—against Sabrina. She’ll go to the wedding and bite her tongue. She’ll give the girl another chance.
Unless, of course, that girl messes something up. Then, well … she’s clearly not Jason’s lifelong squeeze. And Pam’ll do anything for her little boy—even break up a wedding if she has to. After all, a mother’s love is love too, isn’t it?
“The art of forgiveness is an important theme throughout the movie,” Bishop T.D. Jakes, a popular megachurch pastor (at The Potter’s House in Dallas) and the producer for the movie, told Plugged In. “I think when families lose their ability to forgive, they lose their ability to survive.”
When Sabrina and Jason decide to marry, they draw together two different worlds. Sabrina’s silver-spoon upbringing (the wedding takes place on her parents’ estate on Martha’s Vineyard) and Jason’s blue-collar roots were bound to clash, and almost everyone is in need of a little healing grace before things get set straight.
Pam kicks off the wedding’s biggest cataclysm, nearly getting the thing called off. And yet, even in the midst of this terrible pileup, Jason confronts his mother with love and respect.
“I’ll always be there for you,” he tells her. “That hasn’t changed. It hasn’t.” But, he adds, she has to change … and let him go a little.
Sabrina forgives Pam too—allowing her new mother-in-law a little more say in how the wedding’s conducted than she originally planned. It’s an important peacemaking compromise that goes a long way to healing the hurt on both sides.
Pam has company here. Almost everybody is in need of forgiveness by the time the credits roll. And almost everybody needs to forgive. And they do.
The film casually throws bits of wisdom around like so much wedding rice. It’s refreshingly honest about the realities of both love and marriage. And yet getting married is worth it, Sabrina’s mother, Claudine, tells her girl—a beautiful testimony of commitment, considering she’s in the midst of her own matrimonial trials. “Sabrina,” she says, “marriage is forever. It’s for life.” The vows say for better or for worse, Claudine adds, and she takes those vows seriously.
Characters demonstrate love, respect, patience and communication. We see people correct one another without condemnation (no easy feat). And we’re given some nice examples of perseverance in the midst of some messy, messy lives.
Despite Jakes’ involvement, it’d be unfair to label Jumping the Broom a Christian film—certainly not in the same way that, say, Fireproof is. But a Christian ethos undergirds it, and many of the people we meet are buoyed and motivated by faith.
When we first see Sabrina, she’s getting dressed after a one-night stand. But when she realizes that her beau-of-the-evening didn’t have any real feelings for her, she says a prayer, promising God that if He gets her out of this prickly predicament, she won’t “give her cookies” to anyone else but the man she marries.
A bargain with God isn’t exactly core Christianity, of course. But she does keep her promise—so diligently that her commitment to abstinence while dating Jason becomes a central theme and running joke. Both Jason and Sabrina indicate that their love is an answered prayer.
Pam reads her Bible a lot. And after she tells a dark secret that nearly sabotages the wedding, she says she did so because she believed God (through her reading of the Bible) told her to—Jakes’ way of showing how we sometimes confuse our own wishes with those of the Almighty. In the aftermath, as Jason searches for his would-be bride, he pulls off to the side of the road and prays: “I can’t fix this. I need You. I need Your help, God.” It’s a prayer that, really, we should all say every day.
We see several other people praying … sometimes alone, sometimes at mealtimes. But when Pam says grace at the rehearsal dinner, it turns out to be a rambling insult directed at Sabrina and her family. “If that was a blessing,” Pam’s brother whispers to her, “you’re going to hell.” He confronts her again later, telling her that stirring up trouble at a wedding is probably not in God’s will. “God don’t like ugly, Pam,” he says.
Jason and Sabrina pick out Bible verses to be read during the ceremony. 1 Corinthians 13:11 is used as an excuse for a 20-year-old man to hit on a much older woman.
Many of the wedding guests are on the prowl for a paramour, and the film shows Sabrina in her underwear after a fling. That’s purposeful, Jakes says. After a Denver screening of the film, he told the audience that it was important to show “how difficult [staying pure and true to your promises] is when you have a past.”
In a later one-on-one interview, Jakes continued that thought. “The discussion [in the film] … whether we’re uncomfortable with it or not, our children are having every day,” he said. “And this film [already shown in screenings] led them away from promiscuity into a life of abstinence, which is what the church teaches. I think the church has got to lose its timidity and start engaging in this conversation. And parents need to get engaged in this conversation, because I guarantee you, their children are talking about it. And anything you won’t discuss, they’re getting their education somewhere else.”
Some of that miseducation is coming from this movie. We actually end up seeing Sabrina in her underwear twice—the second time shortly before the wedding when Jason climbs through her bedroom window. Elsewhere, maid of honor Blythe and the wedding cook start to get hot and heavy in the kitchen, sans pants.
Friends and relatives openly question Sabrina and Jason’s countercultural behavior, wondering whether Sabrina might be pregnant or if Jason might be getting his sexual satisfaction elsewhere. When asked how he manages, Jason confesses that he masturbates a lot.
Conversation fodder includes affairs, premarital sex, sex-heavy songs, “whores,” pedophile and hermaphrodite jokes, menstrual cycles, condoms, erections and aphrodisiacs. Bikinis and cleavage-baring outfits are worn. Aunt Geneva gives Sabrina lingerie.
Sabrina and Jason meet when she literally runs into him with her Audi. Claudine and Geneva slap each other. Jason punches someone in the face.
About a dozen misuses of God’s name and 10 interjections of “h‑‑‑.” Someone says they’re “p‑‑‑ed.”
Wine, beer and champagne make stylish appearances. A bachelor party takes place at a bar. We see that somebody is suffering the legal consequences for driving drunk.
One of Jason’s cousins pushes him to disrespect his wife, encouraging him to stay out late with the guys after he has a fight with Sabrina. Claudine’s husband tells her that, despite appearances, they’re completely broke—a secret he’s known for a while but was too afraid to share with her.
In an unguarded moment, Claudine boasts that now, instead of being a slave, she has “slaves.” (She’s talking about her servants.) Pam opines that rich people always own bidets because they’re “full of it.”
The practice of “jumping the broom” in African-American weddings extends back to the days when slaves couldn’t marry in any traditional sense. To compensate, couples showed their commitment to each other—and to the community—by jumping over a broom handle together. In those days, when families could be torn apart by a bill of sale, it was a resonant, joyous ceremony—an act of optimism, hope and commitment made in the midst of a difficult, uncertain world.
Fast-forward about 150 years, and the folks we meet in Jumping the Broom are still living in a difficult, uncertain world—just as we all are. Jason and Sabrina, trying to remain abstinent, find themselves surrounded by folks who don’t share their values and freely solicit sexual immorality. They live in a culture where marriage is sometimes treated as a business contract—one to be negotiated or terminated at a time of mutual convenience.
They don’t condemn the folks mired in this world. They don’t point fingers at those who have bought into its way of thinking. And neither does the movie.
That’s part of the reason Jumping the Broom has issues aplenty—that can’t be swept aside. But there’s still something refreshing about its outlook. This isn’t a romance with a barely believable happily ever after. Nor is it an over-the-top raunchy sex farce in which love is really just another word for sex. Jumping the Broom really is about relationships. “Sometimes, even a soul mate can really test you,” Jakes tells us in a cameo as the couple’s pastor. And sometimes even the best relationships are sorely tested by outside forces as well.
But is it worth it? Is love still worth our time? Is commitment still important, still beautiful? Does jumping the broom matter?
Yes it does, Bishop Jakes would like to tell us. Yes it does.
Read our ” Faith, Film and … T.D. Jakes” interview.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.