By: BabyRuth (Six Pack) –
Master of Subtlety, Tyler Perry is back with the spiritual successor to the amazing Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (if you missed it the first time, please check out Jenna Zine’s review “You and your vagina should rejoice in that casserole. Cooking that casserole is deeply satisfying and should cover all your needs,” is still one of my favorite things I have ever read from my very talented MovieBoozer colleagues.)
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony opens on court proceedings in a harassment case against Melinda Gayle (Taraji B. Henson), who has been stalking her ex-husband Robert (Lyriq Bent) and his new fiancée Diana (Crystle Stewart). Obligated to complete court-ordered sessions with an (off-screen) therapist, Melinda then begins to recount her decades-long history with Robert, revealing what has led to her becoming so unhinged.
Here come the flashbacks! We go back, all the way back to when Melinda and Robert were completely different people! That would be Ajiona Alexus as young Melinda and Antonio Madison as Robert. But everything is narrated by the older Melinda (Henson in full “Cookie” voice-over mode) providing commentary along the way.
We learn that Melinda and Robert met in college when he literally ran into her. He gets back into her good graces by offering to help her write a paper in a class he had taken in the past. Well, she ends up getting an F (possibly because her term paper is handwritten?). This sets a pattern into motion of Robert continually screwing up Melinda’s life.
Robert is supposedly very intelligent, in school on a scholarship, but also very poor (he lives in a run-down trailer) so Melinda is always the one paying for their dates, much to the chagrin of her sisters June and Brenda (younger versions played by Racquel Bianca John & Bresha Webb; older by Jazmyn Simon & Ptosha Storey respectively) who always seem to be popping up, Greek chorus-style, to offer their unsolicited advice and scorn.
But you see, Robert has a dream. He is working on a self-charging battery. He is sure that someday he will be able to sell the technology for millions and give Melinda the world. Until then though, he’ll need to spend decades perfecting it, for which he will need money. Fortunately Melinda’s mother dies, leaving her three hundred thousand dollars and her house (the sisters apparently got nothing). Robert blows through the money pretty quickly and Melinda stands by him, even after she catches him cheating (which “makes her crazy come out” when she smashes her Jeep into his trailer home, tipping it over and rupturing her ovaries. You read that right. This is a Tyler Perry film, after all.)
They marry and Robert continues to drain Melinda’s inheritance until there is nothing left and she is forced to mortgage the house and work two jobs. Robert, meanwhile, tinkers away at his dumb battery, the “Gayle Force,” which, is like, a big lunchbox with “Gayle Force” painted on it (it’s ridiculous), never getting a job himself (he uses the excuse that he can’t because he has a criminal record – just another fun fact about him!).
I’m pretty sure he proposed with a Ring Pop.
This goes on for years and years (and feels like it while watching) until we catch up to the present and the melodrama is turned all the way up to 11…
By now, I would hope people know what they are getting into when sitting down to a Tyler Perry movie. This one is just as bonkers and nonsensical as one would imagine. It’s like a year’s worth of soap opera episodes combined into two hours. This is a good thing. These are those kind of bad movies that are fun. Especially in a packed theater. (I arrived five minutes before showtime and had to sit in the very front row.)
I do have to give Tyler Perry some actual, legit credit. This is probably (from what I’ve seen) his best work from a technical standpoint and he does make an effort to incorporate some shades of gray (OMG, how amazing would a Tyler Perry/E.L. James collaboration be?) in his characters. More on that in a bit.
Don’t misunderstand – the story is still ridiculous (would you believe the woman Robert cheated on Melinda with all those years ago turns out to work at the exact, single, solitary company he has been pitching the Tsunami Battery X-traordinaire to for ten years? – the luck!) and the dialogue sounds like it was written by a 13 year old, but he tried a little more on this one.
The main draw here is Taraji B. Henson, who, though she really deserves better than this, delivers one hell of a performance, reveling in the character. Normally, the framing device of a character telling someone their story via narration over flashbacks is lazy, but Henson can recite the phone book (or whatever the 2018 equivalent of a phone book is) and make it sound compelling. Every “motherfucker” is a gift.
I also have to toast Tyler Perry that, aside from a wedding, he did not include any scenes in a church in this movie nor is there any mention of God. (Though Melinda refers to herself as The Devil.)
Henson’s narration aside, the backstory drags and really didn’t need so much time devoted to it. It’s basically: Robert takes, Melinda gives, Robert takes some more, Sisters tell Melinda to leave him. Repeat.
So we spend the first hour-plus of Acrimony following Melinda and Robert’s relationship, the whole time Ut-uh girl’ng poor Melinda and Oh heellll nah’ing that cheating, using, no-good-doing Robert.
But then, Perry does something extraordinary…
Okay, look, I can’t talk about this without getting into spoilers so,
He turns the tables and makes Robert the good guy.
See Robert finally sells his Mega-monsoon 3000, becoming an insta-millionaire and shows up at Melinda’s office with a check for 10 MILLION DOLLARS plus the keys to her mother’s home, which he purchased back for her. When he produced the keys, it received a round of APPLAUSE at my screening. At this point I wondered if Perry was trolling his audience.
Once she realizes it’s too late for a reconciliation with Robert, Melinda Loses. Her. Shit.
So what’s the takeaway here? Ditch your cheating, free-loading husband before he takes everything, UNLESS, he’s working on some far-fetched pipe dream invention, because then you must support him no matter what or boy will you be sorry when he finally makes it and gives the woman he cheated on you with twenty years ago the life you’ve been dreaming about while you get a measly ten million dollars? I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In an instant Melinda goes from mild-mannered, long-suffering but loyal wife to motherfucking bunny-boiler. Aside from the Jeep/trailer crash/exploding ovaries thing, we really don’t see her “crazy” come out in the 20-something time span of her relationship with Robert. That is, until Perry decides it’s time for the movie to end.
At one point early on during her therapy session, Melinda monologues about the “angry black woman” stereotype. Before the film’s events unravel and it still appears that the narrative was going to be “doormat wife finally stands up to the man who has done her wrong,”this seemed like a meta-moment of clarity on Perry’s part. That maybe he was finally going to address a cliche that he has perpetuated in his um, art (I mean, he has a film titled Diary of a Mad Black Woman for chrissakes)…
Nope lol! Melinda becomes the very definition of the trope. She explodes into screaming, punching, kicking, crazy-dancing madness.
Oh the crazy-dancing.,. The crazy-dancing is worth the price of admission alone.
Sorry couldn’t find a gif so this will have to do.
There is a one-off attempt at explaining her behavior as borderline-personality disorder, which does the mental health awareness movement no favors. The research on the condition was likely the result of two-second Google search. And then it’s dropped and never revisited again.
This one is a celebratory beer for the climax of the film when we, finally, get Taraji in full super-villain mode and it’s glorious.
Get to a movie theater (preferably one that serves alcohol) now and go to the fullest showing of this movie immediately.
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (2018) Drinking Game
Take a drink: whenever Nina Simone is mentioned or an album is shown
Take a drink: for every cigarette Melinda lights up
Take a drink: for every title card with a definition of a word
Take a drink: whenever Melinda calls her therapist a bitch (I feel so bad for that poor lady)
Take a drink: whenever the graphic of Melinda’s dwinding expenses is shown
Take a drink: for every ridiculous coincedence
Take a drink: for every mention of New & Improved Crafto-matic Hurricane 2000 battery or whatever it’s called
Do a shot: crazy dancing!
Do a shot: when Tajari P. Henson finally gets to go crazy