Starring Taraji P. Henson, Lyriq Bent, Ajiona Alexus, Antonio Madison, Crystle Stewart, Jazmyn Simon, Ptosha Storey, Danielle Nicolet, Nelson Estevez, Kendrick Cross, Jay Hunter, Shavon Kirksey, Bresha Webb, Racquel Bianca John, Angelique Valentine, Jarvis Shaffer, Moses Jones, Terayle Hill, Katie Carpenter and Alonzo Ward.
Screenplay by Tyler Perry.
Directed by Tyler Perry.
Distributed by Lionsgate. 120 minutes. Rated R.
Tyler Perry had so little faith that people would understand the meaning of the title of his latest film – which is a word which is not exactly uncommon – that in the opening credits when they show the film’s name a long group of synonyms is listed underneath.
Acrimony: Bitterness, anger, rancor, resentment, ill feeling, ill will, bad blood, animosity, hostility, enmity, antagonism, waspishness, spleen, malice, spite, spitefulness, peevishness, venom.
Yeah, thanks Tyler. We know what it means.
In what is undoubtedly Perry’s five-hundredth film this year, the highly prolific writer-director-producer-actor is trying to do his own mash-up of Scenes from a Marriage and Fatal Attraction. (Acrimony! It rhymes with matrimony!)
You always want to give Perry the benefit of the doubt. He seems like a nice enough guy. He seems to be very smart. He is a hard worker. He has found an audience niche that is way under-served. He has a substantial following. He offers job opportunities to hundreds of actors and crew members who may be frozen out of the traditional Hollywood power structure.
However, Acrimony (or Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, depending if you are willing to deign to use the official branding) is just further proof of a fact that has become more and more obvious over the years: The only thing worse than a Tyler Perry comedy is a Tyler Perry drama. I mean seriously, the guy has been insanely prolific over the years. You’d think he’d have gotten the hang of filmmaking by now.
Still, Perry seems to be going back to his roots as a filmmaker (a mere 13 years ago!), because this film could easily share the title of Perry’s first movie: Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Oh well, at least Perry doesn’t dress in drag as Madea yet again in Acrimony.
This time out, the mad black woman is Melinda Moore – played at different stages of her life by Ajiona Alexus and Taraji P. Henson. (Henson also does the nearly wall-to-wall voiceover narration – really Tyler, didn’t you pay attention to the “show, don’t tell” section in your screenwriting class?)
We meet Melinda in court, as she is being admonished by a judge for her anger-management issues towards her ex-husband. The only way to stay out of jail is through court-ordered therapy, though Melinda seems to have no interest in getting past her hatred towards her ex. However, in therapy we flashback through their relationship, so she can show how her no-good-con-man of an ex Robert (played by Antonio Madison as a young man and Lyriq Bent in the current day) stole her money, stole her life, cheated on her and left her the bitter, bitchy woman she is today.
Now, part of the problem with this is that screenwriter Perry makes Mel like that from the jump. We know she’s batshit crazy from the very first time they meet in college – when she violently rips into him for mistakenly bumping into her on the street. Talk about red flags. Dude should have just kept going and never looked back.
However, instead he insists on buying her coffee, which leads to over two decades of misery for them both. (As well as two hours of misery for the audience.)
The narrative follows a pretty standard structure over the years. Robert has an invention which will revolutionize the world, if only he can get it to the right people. (In Perry’s universe, there is only one company in the world that might be interested in purchasing this game-changing battery.) Through the rejections and the hard knocks, Mel supports him romantically and financially, even though her family is sure he’s just with her for the money.
Because he is working “fulltime” to make their dreams come, he never gets a real job, leaving Mel to pay for everything, blow through her inheritance and even lose the family home which was given to her free and clear. Then Robert will do something awful (have an affair, blow money, buy a car, screw up her sisters’ business, etc.) which leads Mel to say this is it, I’m leaving. But she never does.
And when she finally does do it: Oops, he became rich from the battery after all. To make it worse, he’s back together with the woman she caught him cheating on her with decades earlier, a woman who just happens to work for the company that he has been trying to get into for decades.
It’s enough to drive a woman mad. Well, if she wasn’t mad already. Which Mel obviously was.
Melinda constantly talks in the narration about her own life decisions, her continued support of the man who did her wrong, as if she had no choice. But, of course she did. She could have kicked the loser to the curb at many, many points in this screenplay. Most women would have. It’s not his fault that she was too weak to stand up to him until it was just too late.
More to the point, Melinda is proud of her craziness. She luxuriates in it during her voiceovers. Her family acknowledges it. It is no secret that Melinda will overreact to just about anything. So, by the time we hit the point of the “shocking” finale, there is absolutely nothing about this woman that would surprise us.
It would seem nearly impossible for a director to make a performance by such a vital actress as Taraji P. Henson seem flat and lifeless, but here we go. She does what she can with Melinda, but she is stranded without motivation, or a coherent script. The same goes for most of the rest of the cast, who seem talented enough, but they are stranded on a vast island of bad dialogue and melodramatic (if not ridiculous) plot points.
But on the plus side – perhaps the only plus side here – the film’s soundtrack is made up almost entirely of classic music by Nina Simone.
Perhaps Perry should stop trying to make three movies a year (as well as TV shows, theatrical productions, books, etc.) and instead concentrate on making one movie every year or two – and try doing it right.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 26, 2018.