Is there now some unspoken law that nearly every family gathering has to have a Tyler Perry movie or stageplay? I miss the old staples like Soul Food, The Color Purple, What’s Love Got to Do With It, and Love & Basketball, you know ones with actual good stories and compelling characters. There’s no time like the holidays to be randomly dragged into the millionth Tyler Perry dispute. I have nothing against the brotha personally but he’s so oversaturated. More and more his material becomes wholly unavoidable. It’s so difficult to manage. I don’t try to verbally express anything about them and an audible gasp breaks out here and there. I try not to complain but it gets unbearable sometimes. I catch so much flack for not liking him, but anything one is continuously exposed to without the preference for it is frustrating.
The particular stageplay that caused me grief this Thanksgiving was “Madea’s Big Happy Family”:
- So much of the humor were insults on characters’ appearances and shortcomings something Tyler derives the majority of his humor from in all his works
- There was one supposedly developmentally delayed character that was the product of a raped preteen that received many laughs at the expense of his condition and the effects of it. I took offense to this because of the rampant stigma against mental illness in the Black community and lack of treatment for fear of mockery of certain conditions. It’s just inconceivable that people still stoop low enough to make fun of mentally ill characters.
- One character’s natural hair and homely appearance is mocked and is constantly referred to as an old maid. She is arranged into a date with a standard-order sexy doctor and forced into a makeover complete with a “perm”(change of wig). I felt the whole nature of that character was so cruel to the plight of the low self-esteem of women whose dating experiences have caused long term damage.
- For a playwright that commonly features anti-domestic violence messages, he does just as much to encourage. At one point a male character tells another male to choke his wife into submission saying “Yah trick!” Under the guise of Madea, he grabs a character by the neck and shoots at others. I hate to be that person, but at a time when entire families are murdered in their homes by gun violence, why is this amusing to anyone?
- The whole thing goes to hell in the third act. He pulls that horribly predictable device of randomly killing a matriarch in order to her progeny more self-reflective but never gives the characters any sort of resolution through plot what instead happens is that Madea launches into 2 separate lengthy garden variety rants one predictable one about the shortcomings of this generation and one telling people how they should love one another. The fact that people sit up and take relationship advice from a single, unmarried person both in character and real-life is unfathomable. Nothing significant is ever brought up afterwards, just the usual complaint about how modern music sucks and the obligatory launch into oldies but goodies.
I don’t know how to tolerate it anymore. Is it so selfish that I can’t hold in my disdain? I’m trying to be a better person, but isn’t there allowance of suffering? I feel so petty being bothered by something so miniscule in the grand scheme of things.
I know! It especially gets under my skin when a non-professional with no knowledge of computers does that. They just roll of the same trite arguments without explaining them and specs that they have no practical use for. Why would you spend $1000+ when you only need the ability to use a word processor and Internet? It’s ridiculous when you see what it costs to make them and what they charge. It’s prestige pricing and if you can afford to have one more power to you. If you’re a designer or musician and you can use it to make money for you, it’s fine to use those skills to pay for it. Otherwise, it’s like wearing a pair Christian Louboutins with a burlap sack.
I think perhaps the most tragic part of growing up is evolution of the definition of fun. That notion of contentment and unbridled joy shrivels and molds into something dark and sinister. Once it only took only having the satisfaction of companionship and the possession of our own personal treasures. We find ourselves morphing into these sadistic creatures hardened by life that derive pleasure and humor in deeply cruel places seeing others suffer, seeing them fall from their own stupidity, ridiculing their ignorance or numbing the pain away through some extraneous source. While it’s not so literally true all the time, every adult has done it at least once. It infects our comedy and music, two outlets we go to ease our troubles. Granted, it does give us a much needed release, but it shouldn’t be the prominent form. It pains me to use such a oft-used cliche but what ever happened to good clean fun?
Instead of that useless, fruitless first year of postsecondary school with the money I’m paying back in loans, I could have gotten:
- Canon 7D(a nice HD video capturing DSLR)
- 15-inch Macbook Pro with the best specs
- Adobe CS5 Master Collection
- A used car
- The text and materials
And still have more than a quarter of the balance remaining. I can’t help but have that sinking feeling that I’ve been robbed. But at least, I got out in time before that number quadrupled over a four year period.
I agree that the cinematography was reminiscent of a film-school dropout but its more like he learned a few more tricks than he’s ever had in his arsenal like alternating depths of field, rack focusing, and soft lighting. I agree that it was “close but no cigar”. There was this one scene that I don’t whether it was the projector or the camera dropped. He still rushed the production of this movie like his others. Sometimes it takes spending a little more time and money to get optimal delivery. Editors are not miracle workers. I feel he’s learning more that the camera should be used as a pair of eyes and not an audience to chide or yell at like a chitlin’ circuit play.
I full-fledged agree with you on Janet and Tessa’s characters. Other than look the part, they felt kind like didn’t quite ignite into their own and I don’t know whether to blame the actresses or the characters in general. I’m not liking the slightly homophobic trend Tyler has created with Janet’s characters. In WDIGM 2, it was Patricia humiliating her husband with the man in the cake and here it was reigniting the ire and hysteria over men on the down low spreading the AIDS virus. He still has a problem with direct association (homosexual infidelity automatically gives you AIDS and you find out that way). He has a history of treating both character types (the successful, career driven woman and naive sex-positive woman) with disdain.
The acting was both a blessing and a curse. It kept me wanting to see more but it upset me that the character’s with the strongest performances had the least fleshed out. A few seemed misplaced. Phylicia’s Gilda was supposed to be a picture of resilience and sensibility but we know the least about her personally. Anika’s passionate character after the rape and speech sort of shrinks away in importance. The whole Thandie-Whoopi-Tessa connection reveals a past of abuse, colorism, abortion, and damaged family ties but doesn’t quite have progress pass that. Loretta Devine’s and Kerry Washington’s character both had poignant characters with relatable experiences but their storylines were so second tier they seemed to interrupt other more important ones. Kimberly Elise’s and Michael Ealy’s story were the only ones who’s story was full-circle and allowed to flourish. For the others, there was simply no closure or extension.
I don’t know. As a film student, I just had a vivid picture of what the adaptation should look and sound like. It’s just hard shelve my expectations. It succeeds as a conversation piece and does enliven the spirit of the original. It is a step in the right direction for Tyler, but it’s simply not the homerun that it could be and many people believe it is.
Filmmaking is perhaps one of the most delicate art forms for one critical reason: You are given a short time to use your audience eyes and ears convey a lifetime’s worth of information about a character or set of characters. It’s more like simultaneously creating a symphony and a portrait. The filmmaker has the delicate task of both presenting characters that fully-developed but still allowing the character to subtly reveal themselves from speech and actions. Whether it is done properly can distinguish the difference in a good film and a mediocre one.
It feels like so much these days certain directors are merely attempt to push narrative without properly establishing their leading character. They rely on established ill-formed archtypal norms rather that fleshing characters out with individual pasts and distinct motivations. They seem to think they can get by with the whole everyone-knows-a-character-like-this excuse. Presenting the product to other cultures may be particularly problematic because they lack the background knowledge make characters fully formed mentally. Filmmaking has a delicate balance: characters should not be vague that the audience cannot decide where their sympathy lies but should not be so oversimplified that it insults the intelligence of the audience. Assumptions in real life are discouraged and with characterization it is almost a crime to open that door so wide that it let’s in the opportunity for misinterpretation and miscommunication.
I feel awful having to be that girl again. You know the one that has that dissenting opinion that is afraid to actually express it on something that everyone around me almost so unequivocally loves. I mean I didn’t hate FCG, but I didn’t love it either. It’s the best Tyler Perry movie to date, but it’d be a stretch it extraordinary in comparison to the entire movie industry or even consider it for the top awards (But then again my judgment wasn’t exactly favorable for even more acclaimed films like Dreamgirls or Precious). It more seems more loosely based on the choreopoem than an adaptation. At best, I could give the movie 2.5 out of 5 stars. To soften the blow I’ll use Colbert’s “Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger” for praises and criticism.
Tip of the Hat: The cinematography (variety in choice of shots, lighting, and audio) are vast improvements over his usual productions.
Wag of the Finger: Several scenes feel like they were almost exactly ripped from other critically acclaimed works specifically “The Devil Wears Prada”, Viola Davis in “Doubt”, and the rape-cooking juxtaposition in “Precious”. It’s almost screams that he use those and his earlier works more as the source material than the actual choreopoem. Pacing is still on the Must Improve list. Several important scenes didn’t linger long enough and less significant ones seemed to drag. Every Tyler Perry movie has at least one tragic wig and Loretta Divine’s was it.
Tip of the Hat: The casting(never his weak spot) for the roles created are almost on point across the board with specific praise for Anika Noni Rose.
Wag of the Finger: The characters created for the movie are clearly from the mind of Tyler Perry and not the product of the original work: the hard-working, cold, executive woman but negligent to her man gets punished with a down-low man who gives her AIDS, the woman infertile from an STD, the long-suffering woman who takes abuse from every side, the loose woman who learns the error of her ways. The men are still flat pretty boys that either are devils or saviours with zero background. The whole uniting Kumbayah moment at the end was kind of disjointed and out of place like Mary’s monologue in Precious.
Tip of the Hat: Tyler Perry did manage to make an effort to include types of characters he’d never include in his own works (back-alley abortionist, cult disciple)
Wag of the Finger: Diversity of viewpoints was clearly a strong point of the choreopoem that scattered the women across the nation. The interlacing of the women within Harlem and as relatives seemed almost incongruous. The original characterizations are intermixed into each other for a strange product. The new characters added and ones that are powerful but can’t really justify their existence make the cast almost bloat from the weight.
Tip of the Hat: Tyler Perry did make an attempt to make a departure from his usual stock.
Wag of the Finger: This is clearly a movie that Tyler Perry should have trusted in the hands of a highly skilled screenwriter (What’s the story is behind Nzingha Stewart’s removal as screenwriter?). The writing was truly the Achilles’ Heel for the what could’ve been a dazzling film. The transition between the narrative and the poem is so jarring that it takes away from the movie. The poetic words that are so beautiful are broken apart, then inserted randomly into the film slamming into the characteristically bland script for the worst effect. The movement and musicality of the original work is almost completely removed an element that makes the choreopoem unique in its own right. Keeping them both is something I perceived as doable with someone more capable with the type of adaptation like Julie Taymor (I know she’s white but her unique mixture of film and theater elements is always fantasic like Broadway’s The Lion King, Titus and Across The Universe. Hmmm…a Nzingha Stewart/Julie Taymor FCG sounds like only the best thing ever. Also funny because she and Nzotake are in talks for a future collaboration). I’m still not sold that fleshing out characters from the original anonymity and creating narrative from was at all needed at all. I hope this is not the only adaptation ever made. Sometimes it takes several adaptations of the same material to get one that is the best.
- Someone please rescue Janet Jackson from Tyler Perry and give her a lighter, happier role. I can’t take seeing her gigantic watery eyes any more when she has such a beautiful smile and sunny personality. Ice queen worked once but it’s starting to become a typecast.
- I may never watch a movie like this in a movie theater. It’s probably going to be added to the long list of poignant films used for humor with Precious, What’s Love Got to Do With It?, and The Color Purple (because rape and abuse are still so damn funny, smh). Several times people yelled out things for shit and giggles of the audience and once a man yelled “‘cause you a faggot!”. Not appropriate!
- Come on Hollywood! Anika Noni Rose deserves so much better than what she’s getting. Her lack of work is completely inexcuseable.
Lace tights: Sexy leg decoration up close, thick, gross leg hair from a distance