Written and directed by: Tyler Perry
Starring: Crystal Fox, Mehcad Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Cicely Tyson, Tyler Perry
Synopsis (Netflix): Disheartened since her ex-husband’s affair, Grace Waters (Crystal Fox) feels restored by a new romance. But when secrets erode her short-lived joy, Grace’s vulnerable side turns violent. An electrifying thriller co-starring Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Cicely Tyson and writer/director Tyler Perry.
I don’t know where to begin. I guess where I can start is say that everything you’ve read from people clowning this movie online is true–this movie is terrible.
Somehow, calling the film “terrible” is still being kind, because the word would imply that there was still some effort in play that came off to an audience in the worst way possible. With the film being shot in five days, clearly there was no effort put in this film. Even worse is how the film makes Tyler Perry’s brag about writing all of his films and shows seem even worse. It’d be one thing if the brag came because A Fall From Grace was exceptional. But the film is a travesty. His assertion that he writes everything in a two-week period shows with this film; there’s no character development, no thoughtful set design, and worst of all, no common sense used within the logic of this film. Case in point: What diner do you know sells wine in stemmed glasses? The one in A Fall For Grace does.
This is one of the least offensive lapses in judgement. There are a ton more in this film that I don’t have time to go over in this review. But what I will say is that this film is lazily written and directed, a vast misuse of Perry’s resources and talent, and a waste of viewer’s time.
As a reviewer, this film annoys me, even when I can find morbid entertainment in the film, because believe me, the film is hilarious for all of the wrong reasons. But what annoys me just as much is the fact that Tyler Perry will probably read a host of these negative reviews about his film and learn nothing from them.
Granted, I don’t expect anyone to want to read negative stuff about their work. It is only natural that Perry would either avoid negative reviews or get annoyed with them. But at some point, I would think that a filmmaker who cares about their work and how the audience views their work would put their ego to the side after a while and consider if there’s a kernel of truth when tons of reviewers are saying basically the same thing.
Dare I suggest that we look to Sonic the Hedgehog, but if we look at how director Jeff Fowler took the criticism about Sonic’s original CG design, we can see a director that took criticism seriously and listened to what people had to say. What he could have done was tell everyone who had a problem with creepy Sonic “screw you” and keep forging ahead. But he actually put his ego aside and promised fans a better movie. We could get into the weeds about whether animators were compensated fairly for the additional work (I believe they were given ample time, from the last that I heard about the issue), but the jist of the example is that this is a director who didn’t think everyone who hated the film were haters, which is what Perry seems to think about people who don’t like what he puts in his films.
From what I’ve seen lately about Perry, particularly his defensiveness when talking about his “work ethic,” he keeps coming off as a person who tries to deflect from the actual issues at play. Whereas he seems to always allude to people not understanding his work or who his audience is, the truth is the contrary. Everyone who has watched a Tyler Perry movie knows exactly who his audience is. What’s being debated right now is why is Perry’s work getting worse the richer he gets? If you compare his best film so far, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, to his latter films, such as Single Moms Club, Acrimony, Temptation, and now A Fall From Grace, you can see the quality shift dramatically. Why is this happening? Why is Perry not doing basic writing 101 tasks, such as cleaning up massive plotholes in films, fleshing out characters, and writing a story that uses basic common sense?
Why is Perry still doubling down on hurtful colorist stereotypes, of which this movie is full of? Yes, there is tons of Black women in pain, as has been Perry’s go-to since the absolute very beginning with Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion. While I do believe Perry believes these stories are highlighting the struggles of being Black women in America, I think he needs to realize that we have more to us than just struggling with men. And frankly, men struggles are usually the least of our problems in America. As YouTuber As Told By Kenya said in her latest video, it’s because Perry thinks he understands Black women that he thinks he’s speaking to the general Black female experience, when in fact, he’s only speaking to one type of experience.
As usual, the dark-skinned Black man, in this case Shannon (Brooks) is the bad guy. So bad, he’s inhumane. The light-skinned Black man, in this case Jasmine’s husband Jordan (Matthew Law), is the hero (and a lackluster, foolish hero at that). Every light-skinned Black woman in this film, including Phylicia Rashad’s Sarah and the woman Shannon cheated on Grace with (Chuanica Pickard) is evil. The sole dark-skinned Black woman in the film, Jasmine’s co-worker and friend Tilsa (Angela Marie Rigsby) is the fat friend to the skinny lead. The fact that she’s an ambiguous character in the usual “fat best friend” role could potentially remind audiences of how plus size women and darker-skinned women (and the overlap of the two) are usually in thankless roles like these that only serve to further humanize the lead female character. The brown-skinned Black women, including lead character Jasmine (Webb), Grace (Fox) and Grace’s son Malcolm (Walter Fauntleroy) are seen as the default for blackness. There characters are at the mercy of both the light-skinned and dark-skinned people in the movie, becoming their victims.
There are so many stereotypes found in this film, and even worse, the villain’s name is Shannon DeLong–DeLong? Really? Giving a dark-skinned Black man the last name of “DeLong” only calls attention to the stereotype of Black men being hypersexual. An example from another film: Harriet character Bigger Long, who not only was a fictional character made to be a Black slave catcher, but was also criticized by viewers as a character who furthered the stereotype of Black men being crazed for White women. “We go back to The Birth of a Nation that led to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan that was anchored in a false narrative, a White man playing Blackface, Black men who were savages and running wild and raping White women,” said attorney Antonio Moore to The Grio. “How far off is Bigger Long from that portrayal of Black men?”
Someone’s going to read this and think I’m reaching. But you can go back through the entirety of Perry’s filmography and see case after case of Perry trafficking in hurtful stereotypes, not to mention a decreased focus on quality storytelling. Me saying all of this stuff isn’t me being a “hater” of Perry or putting undue pressure on him versus White directors, something he’s complained about in one of the interviews linked above. For me, and perhaps so many others, my criticism of Perry comes from me wanting him to ACTUALLY IMPROVE UPON HIS SKILLS! I want him to grow as a filmmaker! He could keep making broad films that harken back to his play days, because to be honest, Perry’s films are entertaining. But just make the stories make sense. And perhaps lessen the amount of evil dark-skinned Black men in your movies. And give your characters good wigs.
As a positive, I will say that Phylicia Rashad is the standout of this film. She and Cicely Tyson, who was given a very small, but important role, elevate this film and keep it afloat amid the ridiculousness.
I’ll close with this: I’m not asking for an Oscar-worthy film from Perry. I’m not asking for Amistad or something like that. I want entertaining films. But what I don’t want is a film that insults my intelligence. And with someone who has a sprawling, history-making studio and is changing the game in Hollywood, I expect more attention to detail. I expect standards, even with broad, guilty pleasure films. I like junky fast food like anyone else, but even while it’s junk, I expect it to satisfy and be served to me with some competence.