Revisiting "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" W/ Dani Janae
25 years later Delilah & Stella's friendship still stands out
This piece is part of the Tribeca 2023 coverage here on “I Care About…” //
Sometimes, there are movies that have a cultural impact beyond their two-hour run time. For as long as I can remember I’ve heard jokes about the 1998 movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back. It has become kind of a meme. When a woman takes a vacation to Jamaica, the usual quip is “ohh going to get your groove back?” or something along those lines. When an older woman starts dating a younger man, she’s Stella. This is primarily a joke among Black people but can be extended toward other races.
When I rewatch the movie, I’m struck by how much I don’t remember. Like…Whoopi Goldberg is in this movie playing Delilah to Angela Bassett’s Stella. Taye Diggs plays the movie’s heartthrob, Winston. There is a lot to talk about with this movie, an age gap relationship, the idea of sexual tourism, cultural differences at play, and the sexuality of women in their 40s.
The beautiful thing about this film though is the friendship between Stella and Delilah.
When Delilah is introduced, there is a great exchange between her and Stella that had me cracking up. They are planning their Jamaica trip and Delilah asks for more “penis material” for her mannequins. You can tell the two have been friends for a long time. It’s Delilah who convinces Stella to go to Jamaica and Delilah who convinces her to take a chance on Winston. Their banter feels so real and honest, and their friendship is the light that carries this movie.
When Delilah gets sick, it's such an emotional section of the film. We see them together in a hospital bed, still laughing and cracking jokes. Dancing to music and strolling down memory lane. “I’ve never worn a hot pink jumpsuit in my life bitch” Delilah laughs. After her death, the relationship between Stella and Winston accelerates. He meets her family after a disastrous first meeting with Winston’s family. Stella’s son Quincy has a heart-to-heart with Winston and makes him promise not to break Stella’s heart.
Even as Stella moves on, the grief for Delilah is felt throughout the final minutes of the movie. It’s clear that their friendship was an anchor point for Stella, a guiding light. Like all good friendships are. Friends that push you to feel your feelings, step outside your comfort zone, and go for the things that make you happy are the most important friendships.
Whether or not Winston is the love of Stella’s life is inconsequential. The fact that she dared to do something that made her happy is what really sells the movie. Black women especially are conditioned to take the love that is given to them and not the love they deserve. The small love that doesn’t make waves in their lives, that kind of love, or face being alone. It’s a threat we always hear.
For Stella, being alone isn’t a threat. Because she has already been there and faced it. What scares Stella is being let down. Winston’s youth and inexperience scare her more than never being married again. Thinking of Delilah’s guidance spurs her to give Winston a try, and to stay with him. Despite the disapproval of friends, family, and onlookers.
This movie is a classic for a reason. Great soundtrack, hot actors, and a compelling storyline. It's a fun watch if you have the time. Watch for Whoopi if you're going to watch for anything!