The Watermelon Woman (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Watermelon Woman (1997)



Critic Consensus: An auspicious debut for writer-director Cheryl Dunye, The Watermelon Woman tells a fresh story in wittily irreverent style.

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Movie Info

Cheryl is a twenty-something black lesbian working as a clerk in a video store while struggling to make a documentary about Fae Richards, an obscure black actress from the 1930's. Cheryl is surprised to discover that Richards (known popularly as "the Watermelon Woman") had a white lesbian lover. At the same time, Cheryl falls in love with a very cute white customer at the video store.

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Lisa Marie Bronson
as Fae Richards/The Watermelon Woman
Irene Dunye
as Mrs. Dunye
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Critic Reviews for The Watermelon Woman

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (24)

The Watermelon Woman is quite smart, remarkably sophisticated filmmaking for a first-time director.

January 21, 2022 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

It gives us something we don't see much of in film -- young black women claiming their space and sharing it with the rest of us.

January 21, 2022 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

It also turns out to be quite likeable, helped by a disarming refusal to take itself or its milieu too seriously.

January 21, 2022 | Full Review…

Sadly, it intrigues only through its inventive manipulation of documentary techniques -- which is to say that what the form promises, the content falls far short of delivering.

January 21, 2022 | Full Review…

It could have become a deadly earnest exercise. But Dunye combats didacticism with wit and irreverence (Camille Paglia even has a self-parodying cameo).

January 21, 2022 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Dunye's salvation is her sense of humor. She's good at creating light, bantering dialogue, and there are a couple of sharp, satirical scenes.

January 21, 2022 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Watermelon Woman

Even though "The Watermelon Woman" is quite unpolished, writer-director Cheryl Dunye still manages to create a realistic fictional history in it to explore themes of race and sexuality while paralleling that with a fictional present where she plays Cheryl who works at a video store with her pal Tamara(Valarie Walker) and as videographers. Tamara tries to set her up on a blind date at a karaoke bar but it goes disastrously wrong.(Surprisingly, even worse than the usual karaoke nightmare.) Unexpectedly, Cheryl finds herself attracted to Diana(Guinevere Turner) who is new to Philadelphia. Cheryl also has dreams of becoming a filmmaker and has decided to focus on The Watermelon Woman(Lisa Marie Bronson), nee Fae Richards, who was featured in Hollywood films as a stereotypical black maid and more three dimensional roles in race films. What Dunye does well is give a tantalizing glimpse at a lost world while debating whether or not actors like Fae were positive or negative role models. Adding versimilitude to the proceedings are interviews with Dunye's mother and Camille Paglia, about whom the reality of is debatable. For example, what does a watermelon having the same colors as the Italian flag have to do with anything?

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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