Sunday, April 14, 2013

TYLER PERRY'S TEMPTATION: CONFESSIONS OF A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (2013)

Written & Directed by Tyler Perry


Where & When: MJR Theaters, Westland, MI  April 3, 2013  9:35 PM


I don't know why I keep allowing myself to be lured in to seeing yet another Tyler Perry movie but there I was, groaning through every torturous minute of his latest drama, "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor". Perhaps it's in the hope that I may finally be able to scream from the rooftops that Mr. Perry has finally crafted a superior film but alas, that still has not come to pass. The writer/director has once again failed to impress as the film suffers from the usual infuriatingly, unimaginative dialogue, underdeveloped characters, unrestrained emotions, and overly simplistic plot conventions. Yet, Mr. Perry feels no strong need to alter a single moment as the audience for his brand of spiritually uplifting cinema turn out religiously to savor every new comedy or drama making him one of the most financially successful independent filmmakers of all-time. I absolutely understand the desire to support the rare African-American film maker out there but it feels like he's been virtually making the same film, using the same exact formula since his cinematic writing debut of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" back in 2005. Mr. Perry, I feel certain, has the potential to stretch as an artist as well as challenge himself (and his audience) with a deeper and richer experience.

In "Temptation", Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross) have been in love since they were children and knew their future would always be together. As soon as they are able, the young couple are married and while Judith's devout mother (Ella Joyce) doesn't approve, she's well aware that she can't stand in the way of such passionate devotion.

Moving to Atlanta, Brice fulfills his dream of working as a pharmacist but Judith isn't nearly as fortunate. Although she wants to be a marriage counselor, she has to settle by working for a highly successful match-matching business run by the colorfully flamboyant, Janice (played by Vanessa Williams, speaking in a ridiculous, unrecognizable accent). Judith makes no attempt to disguise the contempt she has for her new position, much to the annoyance of her co-worker, Ava (Kim Kardashian) who is supposed to show Judith the ropes.

Harley (Robbie Jones), a handsome and very wealthy businessman is not only interested in investing in the company but also in the lovely, Judith. They wind up working closely together with Harley coming on hot and heavy, trying to seduce the happily married woman. You would think Judith would be able to easily resist the mogul's charming but aggressive advances however, she becomes seriously tempted by the sexy millionaire. Soon, Judith finds herself torn as she loves her simple but devoted husband but is very attracted to the high-rolling lifestyle that Harley has to offer.

Many of the director's films began life as a theatrical work and "Temptation" is no exception. But there was no attempt to broaden the stage play as it heads down a highly predictable path where you know what's going to happen long before it ever hits the characters. Mr. Perry has no concept of what "subtly" means and seems to have based his ideas of drama from soap operas where melodramatic story-telling, overwrought acting and over-the-top plot twists are the norm.

Ms Smollett-Bell, who you might recall as a child performer that was very impressive in her first leading role in the Southern drama, "Eve's Bayou", has grown-up quite nicely and still quite an impressive talent. She is clearly the best thing here as the actress helps make all this silliness appear engaging despite being called on to behave wildly out of character at times. That is a problem that occurs throughout as people respond or conduct themselves in ways that come without warning or explanation, serving only to push the underwritten plot forward.

With "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor", Tyler Perry continues to add to his string of heavy-handed but highly popular films. The director may produce much needed films that looks in to the lives of African-Americans who tend to be largely ignored by Hollywood yet seems to believe that his faithful audience doesn't deserve much better than mediocrity.