Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
TYLER PERRY’S ACRIMONY
There are no words in a post-ACRIMONY world. Actually there are four words that writer-director Tyler Perry gives us during the course of this film, potentially from his word-of-the-day calendar. Each word (printed in BODY OF EVIDENCE’s poster font) is used as a title card, demarcating his leading lady’s emotive mindset – and in typical Perry fashion, the audience doesn’t know it will be a device until they are in the thick of the second act when it becomes rapid-fire. Similar to its kissing cousin, TEMPTATION, Perry attempts to disguise his spiritual-based brand of punishing misogyny as crowd-rousing feminism. And much like the former, this also delivers the goods in the best/worst of ways.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Just ask Melinda Gayle (Taraji P. Henson). She’s been remanded to court-ordered counseling over lashing out at her ex-husband Robert (Lyriq Bent) and his fiancé Diana (Crystle Stewart). It’s here where she recounts her “woe is me” history to her therapist – and where she channels her inner Samuel L. Jackson, making cursing an art-form. Don’t worry. She’ll been punished for her sinful foul mouth in the incredibly bonkers third act. In their youth, Robert (Antonio Madison) promised Melinda (Ajiona Alexus) a dream marriage filled with all life’s finer things: Cars! Money! A gigantic diamond ring! A lavish penthouse apartment overlooking Pittsburgh (yes, that’s correct. Don’t ask)! Melinda bought into this dream willingly, financially supporting her jobless husband as he was attempting to sell his invention to a local bigwig investor. Eighteen years later and the bitterness has grown – one stoked by her two judgmental sisters Brenda (Ptosha Storey) and June (Jazmyn Simon). This leads to a betrayal – only it’s not by a character but by the creator himself.
Perry certainly has found more morally murky areas to explore through his work here than he has in the past. He’s matured as a filmmaker. None of these characters are his usual brand of squeaky clean. He’s gotten slightly better at cloaking his stereotypically preachy hellfire and brimstone for his lead female character – one who boldly breaks from Biblical servitude in favor of wanton materialism. Though no one in this picture is the least bit spiritual, that doesn’t mean the filmmaker backs off demonstrably imposing these views upon his secular characters. Lessons on the consequences of greed, anger, revenge and jealousy still reverberate throughout the narrative.
ACRIMONY should be Tyler Perry’s WAITING TO EXHALE, yet this is an entirely different beast. Audience loyalty switches more than mid-way through when it should always remain with Melinda. This is her fiery FIRST WIVES CLUB manifesto and she should be fully within her rights to light it on fire. However, the filmmaker never genuinely lets her. And with many women these days finding themselves positioned as “the starter wife,” this needs to be their cinematic anthem. It’s very clear Perry’s loyalty is always with the male protagonist. Always. It’s maddening and confusing given this is supposed to be her picture. Despite Robert cheating on her in their early relationship stages and neglecting her throughout the better part of their eighteen year marriage, he’s cast as the victim to her destructive temper.
Perry’s films all have their own distinct hallmarks – unique, undeniable camp factors. This film is no different. While TEMPTATION’s was “…and then she got AIDS because she discovered her sexuality,” ACRIMONY’s bananas third act is the tonal equivalent. This one involves a yacht, an axe (not just the metaphorical one Melinda’s grinding) and an anchor (not just the metaphorical one around her neck). Melodrama is amped up, thanks to the use of Nina Simone’s song catalog. It’s a cinematic crime that it’s utilized as set dressing, but Perry makes it work in a way only he knows how to do. During her therapy session, Melinda smokes the longest burning cigarette ever made. Some directors use green screen to cover visual effects like explosions, fire and car chases. Perry uses it for two riverside strolls. Narrative logistical shenanigans arise out of a noticeably absent scene where Diana’s wallet (a pivotal prop) winds up in Robert’s delivery truck. Their fumbling to try to cover this cutting room floor scene up spans multiple scenes. It’s magnificent. Plus, Henson’s delivery of the line, “I didn’t see the con man for the con, MAN,” is one for the books.
On the whole, ACRIMONY is ridiculous, incredulous and outlandish, but at least Perry knows how to make his practically-trademarked brand of bat-shit crazy seem like heightened, valuable clap-back entertainment.
TYLER PERRY’S ACRIMONY is now playing.