Acrimony is the latest release from Tyler Perry and, true to form, Perry has written, directed, and produced it. Unfortunately, one walks away from the film wondering if perhaps Perry’s most shining talent is the ability to acquire financing to put whatever inanity pops into his mind up on the big screen. Let’s hope those wallets close sooner than later, sparing us all the virtually unbearable tedium of movies like Acrimony.
There is so much wrong with this film but let us begin by mercilessly castigating Mr. Perry for what surely is a record-setting use of voiceover. Our protagonist, Melinda, played by Taraji P. Henson in the film’s only remotely credible performance, kicks this tragic affair off by playing narrator as the film flashes back twenty years ago to her then-nascent marriage to Robert (Lyriq Bent). Once she sets the scene, she talks a little more, and then a bit more, and then she just keeps on talking and talking until the movie starts to feel like a visual aid for an audio book we’re all listening to. This sorry development climbs to ridiculous heights as the voiceover frequently becomes nothing more than narrative of what’s shown on screen. E.g., we see Melinda alone on the porch with a taciturn expression and then hear our narrator helpfully chime in with “I sat alone on the porch and was sad.”
The story Melinda proceeds to tell is that of how she ended up in anger management counseling after violating a restraining order against her ex-husband. Robert and Melinda met in college. He cheated once and barely contributed financially to the marriage. You see, Robert was busy building a world-changing battery and trying to get a Willie Wonka-style golden ticket to pitch his idea to what apparently is the one and only company in the whole entire Twilight zone of Acrimony’s America. Why else, after all, would he spend twenty years trying to get a meeting with these people and only these people? His dream of being the next Edison gradually drains Melinda’s inheritance and lead to the mortgaging of her family home, which ends in foreclosure. Implausible is the word that comes to mind but on some level, the whole scenario is just plain silly, especially once Robert gets his meeting and is instantly fabulously wealthy. One does not have to suspend belief so much as suspend the functioning of one’s brain in order to swallow the sheer insanity of the mess that masquerades as a plot in this film. In fact, the main conflict in Acrimony is more like one giant mcguffin than an actual dramatic device.
Lastly, but perhaps most disturbingly, are the many gender and ethnic tropes that are regurgitated throughout Acrimony. Melinda is portrayed as being such a sweet girl, until she gets angry, at which point she of course becomes the devil incarnate. Lest this be mistaken for hyperbole, please understand that she is actually pictured dancing in the red light of a dozen burning candles, stabbing out the eyes of Robert and his new bride in photographs. We even hear her anger counselor ask Melinda if she’s “ever heard of borderline personality disorder,” as if a woman who resents being used and lied to could only be crazy.
Watching Acrimony is an exercise in self-flagellation. At no point is there even a hint of some redeeming quality. Maybe next time Tyler Perry secures twenty million dollars of financing he could do us all a favor and give it to some hungry young director. With any luck, he’ll be better at finding the talent than being the talent.
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