By Mel Reeves
I have to confess that from my perspective Tyler Perry’s movies are simply for pure entertainment and laughs. They are usually too formulaic and too simple, but they usually make me laugh.
And like everyone else, Madea has worn on me. And I confess I liked what Perry tried to do in The Family that Preys.
While I struggled with Temptation — it was sloppy, heavy handed and included some fantastic plot twists — I wasn’t bothered by the moralizing. We live in a society in which not enough emphasis is placed on the fact that our choices have consequences. Whether one likes Perry, the story or not, no matter how round-about he goes to make it, that point is made absolutely clear.
No doubt Perry was sloppy in making the point, but I don’t have any problems with him trying to make it. I did have problems however with a few of the movies implications. Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is a modern-day cautionary tale of what could happen when one yields to their temptations.
Jurnee Smollett-Bell lights up the screen as only she can do. She has been acting since a child and never disappoints and didn’t disappoint as Judith, who has lived a closed and sheltered life raised by an overbearing and pushy preacher mother. She and her husband Brice (Lance Gross) have known one another almost all their lives and are just plain good ole country folks, who have moved to the big city.
Brice is incredibly naïve or just too trusting. His character is a bit over the top. I can’t imagine a husband refusing his wife’s sudden amorous advances as Lance does in the film, especially if she exhibits a spontaneity she hasn’t displayed before. I think most men would maybe be a bit suspicious, but would have joined in nevertheless.
Brice doesn’t question his wife going on an overnight trip with another man, Harley (Robbie Jones), a successful internet entrepreneur. And Harley is not just any other man, but one with his own jet. When Judith works late with Harley, Brice doesn’t seem too concerned until it’s too late.
Some critics have been responding that the entire thing is too far fetched. While I see their point, I don’t totally agree! In real life women and men do some of the most foolish things. I have seen men who were doormats for women and I have known women who fell for all sorts of men traps. And I have seen women especially turn away from a good man to pursue a man that clearly didn’t have their best interest at heart.
Predictably after being pursued almost relentlessly by her tempter, Judith gives in, but does she voluntarily give in? She is forced to have sex with him while 3,000 feet above ground after refusing his advances. In one of the most chilling moments of the movie, he says to her, “Stop. Now you can say you resisted.”
Perry gets dangerously close to implying that what he did to her was okay because she somehow wanted it. And when she steps to the other side she goes all the way. She even gives in to the annoying Kim Kardashian who plays a coworker determined to change the way Judith dresses. Vanessa Williams is her usual sophisticated self as Judith’s boss.
And it turns out that not only is Harley abusive but he also has HIV. In one of the really heavy-handed plot twists, Brandy Norwood plays Melinda, a friend of Brice. She was married to Harley, who beat her and infected her with HIV. He also tried to kill her before she relocated to Washington D.C. to get away from him.
Some may see Tyler’s treatment of HIV as a bit heavy handed, but the truth is unprotected sex leads to this possibility. Perry went a bit overboard in this case, but he made a stark point. No doubt cheating on one’s spouse doesn’t have to lead to being beaten by the person one is cheating with or getting an STD or HIV, but truth is it could happen.
It doesn’t hurt for young people to be presented with this possibility even if it is over the top. From my perspective, considering how HIV and AIDS are impacting the Black community there isn’t enough talk about the consequences of unprotected sex. I don’t think we can overdo the warnings.
Curiously Perry’s moralizing doesn’t go far enough. He leaves out the most important part of the religious motif: reconciliation, redemption and forgiveness. Unlike most of Perry’s movies this one doesn’t have a happy ending. Smollett-Bell character received the worst of it. Her failing seems to continue to punish her years later, she seems to have aged horribly and walks with a limp — maybe a result of the awful beating she took.
Brice and Judith don’t wind up working it out and Perry portrays Brice as having moved on with a younger woman years later. It may have been simplistic but the moral of the story is absolutely clear; “The grass is not always greener on the other side,” or in the words of my grandmother, “If you fool with trash, it will get in your eyes.”
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.