I am fascinated by Tyler Perry. I’ve seen a few of his movies (Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, Meet the Browns), I’m still trying to decipher them. I don’t find them to be very good–they tend to flip flop between wocka wocka funny and drama with a capital D–but I do find them strangely watchable. And clearly, I am not the target demographic Perry has in mind (last time I checked I was not a middle-aged African American female), but I keep watching them. He’s pretty prolific, too: not only do audiences show up for his films, he churns out about two a year. That’s pretty impressive.
He’s made some films without his most popular character, Madea (which, for the uninformed, is Perry in drag), but until now I had not watched any of them. So I rented Why Did I Get Married? to see how Perry fares when he plays a dude (sidenote: not only does he write and direct his films, he always casts himself. Could Perry be the black Woody Allen?), and to see what he has to say about the institution of marriage. Not surprisingly, he endorses it, even though no marriage is perfect.
What’s it about? Every year four married couples spend a week together in some exotic location to work on their marriage. This year they’ve chosen a swank log cabin in Colorado (probably Aspen or Telluride, but the movie never says where exactly). And, of course, each couple comes to the cabin with Issues:
– Power couple Gavin (Malik Yoba) and Patricia (Janet Jackson) have a Deep Dark Secret that threatens their seemingly perfect marriage.
– Pediatrician Terry (Perry) wonders why his workaholic lawyer Dianne (Sharol Leal) won’t have sex with him. (She has a Deep Dark Secret that threatens their seemingly perfect marriage.)
– Loud-mouthed (and frequently drunk) Angela (Tasha Smith) can’t stop telling people how it is, especially her semi-spineless husband, Marcus (Michael Jai White), who has a Deep Dark (and Burning) Secret that threatens their extremely tumultuos marriage.
– Jerk of the year Mike (Richard T. Jones) makes his overweight wife Shelia (Jill Scott) drive by herself to the retreat when she’s deemed too fat to fit into one airplane seat. He also invites Trina (Denise Boutte), his and Shelia’s friend, to the retreat, even though it’s couples only. The “friendship” between Mike and Trina threatens his already-in-jeopardy marriage.
The first half of the film has everybody cooped up in the cabin, breathing in the fresh mountain air, waiting to exhale. When the requisite crap-hits-the-fan scene finally happens, everybody leaves, packing their dirty laundry. The second half is the aftermath. The long, tedioius, aftermath.
What’s good about it? Scott’s performance as Shelia, the heavy-set wife desperate to make her husband love her, is the real star of this show. You believe every word Perry wrote for her, no matter how trite or schmaltzy. Jackson is also pretty good. I really think if she wanted to make a real comeback, she should switch to acting instead of relaunching herself every two years as a crazysexyhott singer. Miss Jackson, you are over 40. It’s okay to be over 40! Quit Mariah Carey-ing it up and get in some good acting roles. You can do it.
I have a hard time coming down too hard on any film that ultimately is pro-marriage and pro-religion. We could always use more of them. I only wish they didn’t have to be so preachy.
What’s bad about it? Perry’s films tend to overstay their welcome, and Why Did I Get Married? is no exception. Perry likes to linger on shots, none of which make you say, “now that’s a movie!” The film feels like a filmed play, which is not surprising, because it’s based on the stageplay he wrote.
Perfect for: people who like their movies extra soapy, but hope that everything will come out in the wash.