Personal Problems (1980) - Rotten Tomatoes

Personal Problems1980

Personal Problems (1980)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Harlem nurse Johnnie Mae Brown (Vertamae Grosvenor) juggles a melodramatic life with her husband, secret lover, and father-in-law. Walter Cotton and Ishmael Reed also star. This entirely African American-conceived and produced ensemble drama is the result of a collaboration of a pair of pioneering Black artists: writer Ishmael Reed and filmmaker Bill Gunn, who wrote and directed the underground classic Ganja & Hess and wrote the screenplay for Hal Ashby's The Landlord. Originally intended to air on public television in 1980, it went unseen for many years; the original tapes have been carefully restored by Kino Lorber and the film is now available in its full-length version for the first time in decades.


Vertamae Grosvenor
as Johnnie Mae Brown
Ishmael Reed
as Manager of Doggy Diner
Walter Cotton
as Charles Brown
Mizan Kirby
as The Visitor

Critic Reviews for Personal Problems

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (4)

An accessible experiment made at the dawn of the video era.

March 30, 2018 | Full Review…

For all its rough edges, "Personal Problems" retains a vitality and an integrity that practically bounds off the screen.

March 29, 2018 | Full Review…

A view of African Americans that's messy, complicated, dramatic, and, most important, honest.

March 27, 2018 | Full Review…

The movie's panoramic cityscapes teem with the gritty details of emotional life: romance and chores, hope and despair and loss, bitter resentments and rowdy reckonings with mortality.

March 26, 2018 | Full Review…

Personal Problems focuses on Black humanity in all of its highs and lows, hopes and fears, mistakes, and triumphs.

July 24, 2020 | Full Review…

It's a necessary work, and one of the major repertory revivals of this or any other year.

March 1, 2019 | Full Review…

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