Depictions of upper-middle class African-American life are such a rare screen commodity that one wants to give a movie like Constellation every possible benefit of the doubt. Written and directed by Jordan Walker-Pearlman, the film leapfrogs between present-day Alabama and 50 years earlier, when a beautiful young black woman (Gabrielle Union) was torn from the white soldier she loved as a result of the era's segregation laws. Now she's dead and her extended family—an emotionally withdrawn artist brother (Billy Dee Williams), his ex-wife (Lesley Ann Warren), and their two daughters—gathers to bury her. Constellation wants to be a sweeping, multigenerational tearjerker a la The Notebook, complete with endless shots of two characters staring meaningfully at one another while gloppy sentimental music swells on the soundtrack. Only Williams, however, makes any real emotional connection—I'm not sure I'd call it a good performance, but there's something intrinsically fascinating about seeing the man once heralded as "the black Clark Gable" three decades removed from heartthrob status, weighed down by the burdens of time and age.

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