Two sisters, Danica and Tanya, who could not be more different, are reunited after Tanya is released from prison. Danica graciously allows Tanya a place to stay in her luxury high-rise apartment, but it doesn’t take long for Tanya to upend her sister’s perfect life when she suspects Danica’s online boyfriend of catfishing.
Danica (Tika Sumpter) is gorgeous, hardworking, and incredibly successful – pulling in the “upper six figures” as one of the lead ad execs at a top firm. The film opens with her securing a huge new account from her zealous boss (Missi Pyle) to create an advertisement to go along with a new perfume called “The List.” (Actually, the film opens with a side view of Danica’s bra-clad breast before she breaks out into a delirious happy dance to the strains of Janet Jackson, and no one is sad about that!) “The List” campaign is meant to encompass every quality a woman hopes to find in her mate – and who better for the job than Danica, who lives her life by that exact credo? Danica is, in fact, already in her dream relationship with Charlie – a man who embodies the standards she expects in a boyfriend. The only problem? She hasn’t actually met him IRL, despite being committed to him for a year!
Enter Tanya (Tiffany Haddish), Danica’s sister, who’s about to be released from prison after being incarcerated for 5 years. A hint of what’s to come? Tanya’s own mother (Whoopi Goldberg, hilarious as their mother, Lola) will not even pick up her youngest daughter from jail and instead fobs off the responsibility onto Danica. Where Danica is graceful, Tanya is wild, loud, and unfiltered; and once she re-enters her sister’s life, her disruptive demeanor changes Danica’s world in short order.
It doesn’t take long for Tanya to suss out two things: that her sister has a boyfriend, and that said boyfriend is most likely playing her. From there on out, the film creates plot holes that would make the Grand Canyon jealous. To explain them all would splay out spoilers for what is overall a fairly pleasant film, as far as Tyler Perry movies are concerned; but, in the spirit of the plot, let’s list a few:
- Danica is intelligent, and yet somehow allows herself to be involved in a long-term, long distance relationship with SOMEONE SHE’S NEVER EVEN MET. The excuses are endless as to why her “boyfriend” Charlie (Mehcad Brooks) can’t Skype – he claims to work on an oil rig where the Wifi is bad – but is the dude never allowed a vacation, which he would presumably use to visit his “soulmate”? I’m pretty sure even oil riggers get a day off here and there.
- Not that siblings have to be exactly alike, but it’s never addressed as to how Danica and Tanya turned out to be so wildly different. Not only do they seem to come from completely different families, they seem to be in different movies as well.
- Danica is constantly being wooed by coffee shop owner Frank (Omari Hardwick), the handsome, muscled man who greets her daily with a free latte and a rose, which she accepts reluctantly, claiming that “he’s not her type.” Girl, are you blind? It’s especially unbelievable that she’d refuse the advances of this hottie in favor of a stranger’s voice on the phone that’s not even attached to a photo.
- Speaking of Frank, he has a young son. At least I think he does – the child is shown for a brief moment in one scene, and is never referenced or seen again. Nothing like establishing a character as a father to imbue him with qualities of sensitivity, without the burden of actually showing him being a parent!
For a Tyler Perry film, this is the least Perry-esque offering from the director/mogul, and it’s a welcome respite. I was wondering if he was going to be able to restrain himself, and the fact that he omitted his name from the title was a good sign that this finally might be a little something different from the man who’s tortured us with Madea. In a surprise move, the normally proselytizing Perry also embraced an R-rating. That said, it still has his stamp all over it, with his hallmark uneven pacing and out-of-place scenes marring what could’ve been a decent rom com. (Seriously, the explicit sex scene between Danica and one of her suitors was so out of whack with the rest of the film that it almost brought me to tears, as I was laughing so hard).
Of course, he leaves most of the heavy lifting to his famous leading lady, Tiffany Haddish, who’s expected to bring the funny to the scenes Perry glosses over. And she does, with aplomb, game to lend her shine. My only fear for Haddish is the hope that she takes an opportunity to flex more of the acting muscles we know she has – she goes for broke here, but it’s beginning to veer into caricature territory. The other problem is that fact that Tiffany’s character is sidelined by the middle of the movie. Perry cast her, and then seemed not to know what to do with her. She’s stuck in one mode for the entire runtime, with no growth or nuance.
Speaking of, Perry doesn’t seem to know what to do with Danica’s love story either, as her exhaustive reasons for clinging to the mirage of Charlie ring false about 10 minutes into the film. Yet Perry keeps forcing the issue, so she has to roll out the same excuses for the remainder of the script, until its predictable conclusion.
Perry is problematic for numerous reasons, one of the main ones being his treatment of women. He’s definitely got a skewed view of what ladies want, as well as how they act. And that’s the short version! (It’s no secret that the misogynistic plot of his horrific film Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor can still bring me to a frothing rage to this day.) At least he treats the women here with a little more respect than his previous outings. On the upswing, his work brings more black actors to the screen, as well as providing numerous opportunities behind the scenes as well – that is no small thing; it is admirable and most welcome.
Again, what could’ve been an engaging addition to the rom-com genre suffers in Perry’s hands. The fun ideas are there, offering hope that his directorial skills have finally made the leap, but then… he just can’t help himself. The best bits drag on – most notably the extended scene from the real Catfish hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph. What could’ve been a clever moment goes for several beats too long, as does the cameo by a very famous comedian. And, man – those wildly awkward sex scenes will be burned on your brain, and not in a good way.
Perry’s Christian-tinged rhetoric was not as flagrantly on display, giving Nobody’s Fool a more palpable mainstream feel. But, as always, you can wish in one hand and shit in the other. With Tyler Perry, you’re likely to get equal amounts of both.
Nobody’s Fool (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Frank crushes on Danica.
Take a Drink: every time Tanya makes Danica cringe.
Take a Drink: every time Tyler Perry makes you cringe.
Take a Drink: every time you shake your head in disbelief that Danica would fall for Charlie and their odd setup.
Take a Drink: every time you wish you could also be pals with Danica’s bestie (Amber Riley) because Callie is adorable!
Do a Shot: for Whoopi, her wig, and her weed – all fabulous!
No need to stay to the bitter end; but do stay for the outtakes as the credits roll – it’s one of the few chances to see the cast enjoy themselves in a looser, carefree fashion as they laugh at one another’s improvs.