4/4/2013 - Because Tyler Perry’s Heavy-Handed Morality Tale is too many words for a movie poster, this story of a young wife who finds herself drawn to a man not her husband is called Tyler Perry’s Temptation.
Meet Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who, I totally understand, has to work, but is a decent actress and needs to have a serious talking-to with her agent). She is a relationship counselor at a high-end dating firm run by Janice (Vanessa Williams), a fancy lady with a super fakey fake French accent. A smart girl who wants to help people and doesn’t care about extensions and high heels, Judith spends her workday bored and picked on by Janice’s matchmakers such as Ava (Kim freaking Kardashian, because gaaah). I think what the movie is going for is some blend of The Devil Wears Prada and Millionaire Matchmaker, but the feel is of a circa-Pets.com made-up business that would never bother hiring a relationship counselor.
Judith is unhappy and unchallenged at work and dreams of one day starting her own practice as a marriage counselor. I’m not sure how one does that, it but sounds like a less crazy use of a college degree than working for someone who would hire Kim Kardashian. But Brice (Lance Gross), Judith’s no-fun prig of a pharmacist husband, tells her to hold her horses little lady, maybe save that special wish for 15, 20 years down the line when they’ve really established themselves. Which means God knows what, because he works for shop owner Renee Taylor, who you’ll remember as Fran Drescher’s mother from The Nanny. But there’s Judith, in her sad little marriage, wearing her sad little blouses, hating life, when in walks Harley (Robbie Jones), an Internet billionaire whose name might as well be DevilSnake McWeaselpants. For reasons that don’t really make any sense, he and Judith have to work together. Even though she’s a smart woman — as the movie claims initially — and he’s a complete slimeball who is such a bad sex-ed video on predatory relationships version of “charming,” Judith soon finds herself drawn to him.
There is also a framing device to this little tale that includes the words “let me tell you a story” and is so amateurish that I’m pretty sure it would earn him an “incomplete” if Perry were turning this script in for his senior project.
For the record, I am anti-infidelity, but I take all kinds of issue with this movie. The central message seems to be (and I am about to spoil things here, but do you really care?): Even if you are in a passion-free marriage with a nice but patronizing guy who does not support your professional ambitions and actually spurns your romantic advances, you should nonetheless sit down on the couch and count your blessings because flirting with another man is just a gateway to a life where you wind up a coke-addicted domestic abuse victim with a sexually transmitted disease. Judith might be a college-educated marriage counselor, but the movie turns her into a hapless rag-doll when in the thrall of the completely unappealing Harley. Judith doesn’t so much decide to be unfaithful as she does trip accidentally into a Life of Sin (complete with a “love” scene that is actually kinda rapey). The movie seems to want to show us how a smart woman can destroy her life with bad choices, but we don’t see Judith actually make a choice — she “falls” in the hammiest, most cautionary-tale way possible. Again, spoiler alert: what consequences does the damp towel that is Brice pay for his part in his crummy marriage? None. And while I agree he is the more aggrieved party, he is not the only aggrieved party.
For one, there’s me. I’m aggrieved. I think I should be able to take this movie to counseling so we can talk about how it promised to respect me and provide me with professional-quality acting (i.e. not passing off Kim Kardashian as an actress) and dialogue that is at least in the same universe as normal human speech. Instead, it totally abandoned me — lying on the sofa watching old episodes of soap operas when it should have been writing layered characters or reading celebrity magazines instead of constructing a nuanced plot. I wanted to build a real relationship of tolerating it for the whole hour and 51 minute run time. Instead, it just took my money and left me sitting in the theater alone, with only the sad remains of Vanessa Williams’ career strewn about this afterschool special for wayward women to keep me company. F
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexuality and drug content. Written and directed by Tyler Perry, who should seriously take, like, one women’s studies course before doing something like this again, Tyler Perry’s Temptation is an hour and 51 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate.