After having extensive practice with their Cuckold series, the blood-brother team of Grip and Cram Johnson have perfected the awkward three-person adult film with Oh No! There’s a Negro in My Mom! Equal parts character study, race-relations exploration and full-blown (pun intended) comedy, the film’s assured direction and improvised dialogue make it quite an achievement, both artistically and commercially.
A study in contrasts, the Johnsons have decided Oh No! There’s a Negro in My Mom into an anthology of four parallel stories. In each, a shocked young-adult child discovers his mother in a compromising position with an African-American “gentleman caller” (as Vanessa Videl euphemistically refers to partner Byron Long). The shocked offspring watch with a mixture of horror and fascination as the Nubian princes ravage their mothers with aplomb.
Having one of the three members of the scene remain fully clothed and able to shine as an actor or actress, the Johnsons step up the inherent drama of forbidden sexual liaisons. The dialogue, improvised by each actor (who were clearly given little more than character “types” that they flesh out on the spot with unparalleled brilliance and wit), ranges from laugh-out-loud funny to heart-wrenching. The reactions of the sons and daughters, and the interaction between them and the mothers and “Negroes,” make the film worth watching.
In the first scene, Mr. Brooks comes home to discover his mother (Videl) performing oral sex on Byron Love. Horrified, he makes continuous complaints about her betraying his father. He decides to sit in front of them, stating he’ll remind her of her husband. Videl’s acid retort? “You’re at that age where you want to watch me, and I know you want to watch me.” It’s such a jarring, uncomfortable moment that Brooks breaks character—a rarity in a performer of his caliber—and looks at the camera, ostensibly at the Johnsons, for some guidance. He turns back, confusion in his eyes, and sighs, “That’s disgusting.” In this instance, breaking the fourth wall does the job of bringing us—the audience—deeper into the scene, growing our empathy with Brooks as he endures the universal pain of matriarchal infidelity.
Videl herself performs the role in an unusual, haughty manner reminiscent of Margaret Dumot’s classic Marx Brothers performances—a big surprise when compared to her work in Rub My Muff 18 and Granny Fucked Grandpa’s Fanny. Her playful exchanges with Brooks make this the funniest of the stories, so it’s understandable why they chose it as a starter. Despite a few early references to Brooks’ father and Videl’s husband “hating Negroes,” the racial undertones mean little in this scene. The Johnsons take the interesting tack of lulling us into the belief that race means very little to these stories, that the title acts as a marketing gimmick rather than an indication of the film’s brutal plundering of racial paranoia—and then it all comes crashing down in the devastating final sequence.
The second scene plays in a manner similar to the first, with “Greg” walking in to discover that his apologetic “only black friend” is receiving oral sex from his mother. This soon escalates into full sex and full confessions—Greg’s mother (Kelly Leigh) has fucked every single one of his friends, terrifying and humiliating Greg into rushing out (at the scene’s end) to “find some new friends,” who ostensibly will never come to know Leigh, Biblically or otherwise.
The tension begins to ratchet up in the third scene. Son Johnny Thrust comes home to find his mother (Morgan Ray) in the arms and cock of a laid-back African-American (Nathan Threat). When he expresses his dismay over this lurid scene, Ray tearfully confesses that her husband—Thrust’s father—died. Both play this entire scene, even the comic moments, as grief-stricken and depressed. Thrust doesn’t put up as big of an argument as the others, and his initial protestations about the quickness of Kelly’s affair are quelled by Threat, who explains, “This is one of the many services of Desert Palm Funeral Homes: grief counseling.”
It was around this scene that I first realized how exceptional the Johnsons blocked each scene. The stories are shot in one take (or, at least, the illusion of one take), and producers/directors Grip and Cram Johnson clearly rehearsed like crazy to ensure both physical and camera blocking matched. Each “setup”—the moment the ever-moving camera “locks” into a shot position—exploits the frame with a fullness only dreamed about in the mise en scène analyses pioneered by Cahiers du cinéma critics. It’s rare in adult entertainment with such a loose, ramshackle storyline to have such ambitious direction, but this is the excellent we’ve come to expect from Grip and Cram.
The final scene brings about the headiest of emotional tolls. Starring Holly Wellin in a tour de force performance that I never would have expected (excuse my ignorance; I’ve never seen her in a non-sex performance, so I had no idea she had such range and depth), scene four is the Johnsons’ fearless snapshot of white-black relations in the U.S. at the time of production (December 2007). Wellin, as the daughter, arrives home from an English boarding school—to find her mother (Shannon Kelly) in mid-thrust with swarthy Barack Obama lookalike Guy DiSilva. Both Wellin and Kelly have a deep-rooted racism—including Wellin’s enthusiastic use of the n word—that DiSilva allows to roll right off his back.
The portrayal of racism-as-normalcy, something as casual not just to the white perpetrators but to the African-American victim, sent chills down my spine, in particular when a spent Kelly pulls herself away from DiSilva’s man-rod and announces, “[My husband] really will kill you. That wasn’t really rhinos he was shooting in Africa. [sic]” Then, she grabs DiSilva’s pants as she turns to Wellin and says, “Actually, could you search his things before he leaves.” Checking out his jeans, Kelly adds, “Imagine that—there’s nothing in his pockets.” DiSilva stands idly and nakedly by, absorbing this abuse. The nudity of both DiSilva and Kelly, in this case, symbolizes the idea that we can only arrive at real truth—no matter how ugly or dripping with bodily fluids—when we’ve stripped away societal artifices like “political correctness” or “Zionist media outlets.”
The film’s chilling last line—Wellin’s hostile, fourth-wall-smashing “Run, n*gger, run!”—echoes the overall sentiments of the Johnsons. Racial disparity can be amusing (as in the first and second scenes), traumatic (scene three) or clouded by rage (scene four), but we’ve reached a point where it can no longer be ignored. We can either confront it, head on, and solve the superficial problems plaguing our society…or we can run.