If author Terry McMillan wants to blame someone for the disappointing adaptation of her best-selling novel "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," she needs look no further than a mirror.

McMillan served as executive producer of the romantic drama-comedy and co-wrote the screenplay. But it features so much in the way of awkward and contrived situations that even an extremely talented cast nearly flounders.To their credit, the stars (especially Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg) make this deficient female fantasy work until the whole thing goes seriously awry.

Bassett stars as Stella Payne, a 40-year-old investment counselor who seems to have it all: a successful, high-paying job, a great home, loyal friends and a loving son (Michael J. Pagan).

But the zest seems to have gone out of her life. So her eccentric best friend Delilah (Goldberg) convinces Stella to take a weekend vacation in Jamaica, and to the surprise of both, she finds what she's been missing - romance. And it arrives in the person of charismatic 20-year-old Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs).

Though Stella believes their fling to be exactly that, her thoughts keep returning to the young man, and when he travels to the States to see her again, the two begin a serious relationship.

Surprisingly, Bassett has a very natural, believable chemistry with Diggs, who is quite charming. However, the person with whom she shares the best rapport is her scene-stealing co-star, Goldberg.

When the two of them are on-screen together, the film works surprising well. But when they aren't (thanks largely to a bad piece of cliched movie plotting), it falls apart quickly.

Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan (who makes his feature-film debut here) has a hard time establishing a consistent balance between romantic drama and irreverent humor.

He's not helped by the script, which is sprinkled generously with crude language and unconvincing dialogue.

"How Stella Got Her Groove Back" is rated R for male and female nudity, profanity, simulated sex, vulgar references and slang, and glimpses of a violent video game.