This is an important film about Black life in South Central Los Angeles of the 1980s, but it's not a good film. Many viewers may find much to appreciate here in its authenticity, in its depiction of people who maintain their dignity in the face of financial struggle, in a dedication to decency and an affinity for Christian values, all slamming into the chaos and oppression of poverty, racism, crime, unwed pregnancy, police abuse, bad schools, drug use, and joblessness. Burnett does justice to a Black world, the way Toni Morrison did in her novels -- a world that's a proudly distinct and separate entity that may suffer under White prejudice but doesn't depend on White influence for its identity.
The trouble is, for all the director-writer's efforts, Burnett couldn't make a good film with a shallow script and inexperienced actors. Neither the stilted dialogue nor the actors dig deep enough to express the underlying truth Burnett is clearly and earnestly striving to present. As written, the character of 30-year-old Pierce seems bright and decent, but we're never shown why he's stuck and lacks the tools to move forward, unlike his brother, who is a lawyer. With no carefully constructed true dramatic arc, My Brother's Wedding poses a false choice at the end that no real person would leave to the last minute to make. This is a monotone movie where no event, no matter how substantial, is given more weight than any other. Note that Burnett's rough cut was finished in the 1980s, when the film was unable to find a distributor. In 2007, Burnett edited it again to an hour and 20 minutes, 37 minutes shorter than the originally shown version. It's now clear that in terms of film quality, the edit wasn't the problem.