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"Funny Valentines" and "Deep in My Heart"

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For Black History Month: the two best entries of the week are Funny Valentines (Sunday, February 14; 8 to 10 p.m.; BET/Starz!) and Deep in My Heart (Sunday, February 14; 9 to 11 p.m.; CBS). Funny Valentines -- directed by Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust); starring Alfre Woodard (Miss Evers' Boys), Loretta Devine (Waiting to Exhale), and CCH Pounder (E.R.) -- is a loose-limbed account of a well-to-do black woman's retreat from a troubled New York marriage to the Deep South and her childhood past. Woodard will introduce her citified daughters, Megalyn Echikunwoke and Kajuana Shuford, to her cousin Devine, her aunt Pounder, family history, old-time religion, homemade ice cream, front-porch swings, and traumatic secrets. Never mind the local doctor (Tom Wright) who seems to have been waiting for Alfre since high school, or the fact that her cousin may not be her cousin after all. The resonant performance is Devine's, as Dearie, who is supposed to be slow but who is actually glorious. Devine's eye lights up everything in the natural world, its flowers and fruit, vegetables and spices, most of which she's bottled herself in artful combinations. And it's precisely this rich texture that director Dash, an African-American Matisse, has always sought with her sensuous camera. Imagine, a TV movie that has nothing whatever to do with white folks, although you do see them standing around baffled.

Deep in My Heart is nothing out of the ordinary to look at, but almost everything bad that could possibly happen to anyone in this country has already happened to Gloria Reuben before she finds her mother, who turns out to be only one of three. When the baby Reuben is born black in Boston in the early sixties to a white Gerry Cummins (Cara Buono then, Anne Bancroft now) who had been raped, she is given up to the Roxbury foster care of Lynn Whitfield, then taken away by social workers who plant her with white-liberal adoptive parents (Alice Krige, Albert Schultz) in Milwaukee, where, after their divorce, she is neglected until, in high school, she meets Jesse L. Martin (Ally McBeal's doctor-squeeze), after which she will have five children of her own and then collect her mothers for a reckoning. It sounds schmaltzy and manipulative, but you will cry.


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