Taking place in Huntsville, Alabama, or perhaps Dullsville, Alabama, the well-meaning, slow-moving family drama Constellation contains more talking across mealtime tables than My Dinner with Andre. The conversations are much less fascinating, however, coming as they do from characters with the odd combination of being both monstrously self-absorbed and lacking in depth. "This isn't about you or your needs," one character tells another, in one of the balder bits of dialogue, which also contains the ripe line, "Who cares if the world changes if your hurt stays the same." It's more wince-inducing than winsome.
As a young African-American woman 50 years prior, Carmel Boxer (Gabrielle Union in flashback) had fallen for a white neighbor boy who'd left her under pressure and shipped out with the Army. Each having found the one, Carmel never married, and Bear Korngold (David Clennon as an adult) grew old regretting the youthful love he hadn't the courage to continue. Now Carmel has passed on, and her brother, his ex-wife, his ex-mistress/second wife, his two daughters--one by each--and the white husband of one and the black ex-boyfriend of the other have all converged in her New South suburb to attend her funeral.
Carmel's younger brother, Helms (Billy Dee Williams), is now an artist living in Paris. One of his daughters, Lucy (Melissa De Sousa), is a daddy's girl delighted to see him. The other, Rosa (Zoe Saldana), resents him. Helms' first wife, Nancy (Lesley Ann Warren), is happy to see him and still vaguely attracted to the grumbly King Lear, as is second wife Jenita (Rae Dawn Chong). Lucy's husband Kent (Alec Newman) is a bit touchy and on-edge, especially since she wants a baby and he "isn't ready," and Kent's best friend Errol (Hill Harper), Rosa's ex, has flown in out of what's seriously described as a chivalric sense of honor.
Korngold, who apparently has done well for himself, is footing the funeral bill, and is given to saying things like "Every scar I have, I got from walking away from love." This he tells his niece Celeste (Ever Carradine), an old friend of Rosa with whom Errol slept during a time Rosa and Errol were separated, something Rosa's having a hard time forgiving, and I'm nodding off just thinking about the long, static close-ups and endless scenes of people walking and sitting and doing nothing. One scene, in which Helms walks around town, stops into a neighborhood barbecue, and seemingly, maybe, has a mini-stroke, or vertigo, or something, just makes no sense.
The press notes describe writer-producer-director Jordan Walker-Pearlman as a nephew of Gene Wilder who grew up on movie sets, being encouraged by the likes of Sidney Poitier, and at 13 directing short films for the Nickelodeon children's series "Livewire." His movie is shot well, gleaming with late-afternoon light and languid summer grass, but the basics of visual storytelling seem to have eluded him.