Tyler Perry has been the subject of criticism from many pundits and movie critics, accused of making stereotypical movies that depict black women in an unflattering way.
I have never really agreed with this argument, not just because I am a big fan of his work, but because I’m of the opinion that a story teller can tell stories about anything that he’s passionate about, even if critics and certain classes of people find it uncomfortable. Perry over the years has shown that he is passionate about showing the struggles of black women in many of his movies turning a dead ear to critics. And while as a movie lover I could puncture one or two holes in his storylines, I do not fault them as a whole.
Against this backdrop, I was very curious about his new movie A fall from Grace, done in partnership with Netflix, trailer for which surfaced online a few weeks ago. The trailer was met with mixed reactions- critics crying foul as usual, saying that his movies are a ‘black scorned women trope‘ and unrealistic while others expressed their excitement about Perry’s upcoming work. I am a fan of Crystal Fox (Who plays Tika Sumpter’s-Candace Mum in Perry’s OWN show The Haves And The Haves Not), so apart from excitement, I was curious to see how Fox would fare in a role different from that which I had gotten accustomed to. Bearing this in mind, I made up my mind to watch the new movie as a pundit and not through rose coloured glasses as a fan of Perry and Fox.
Finally the movie- A Fall From Grace arrived on Netflix , and I saw it yesterday. This is a spoiler free review so I won’t give too much away in terms of how the plot plays out. Perry in this movie tells the story of a middle aged women accused of murdering her husband in cold blood. The woman Grace Walters played by Crystal Fox confessed to the crime, and was going to take a plea bargain when her young lawyer Jasmine -played by Bresha Webb– from the public defender’s office decides to fight her case and go to trial. The story then unfolds from there.
The first thing I thought about this movie was that it appeared pretty cliché at the beginning. In fact, on one or two occasions I found myself rolling my eyes at the mundaneness of it all, because it seemed like I had seen the entire movie in the trailer.
As with anything, detail is very important. It is sometimes the little things that come together as a whole to produce excellence. And 40% into the movie, I started to really think that perhaps, this wasn’t one of Tyler Perry’s finest efforts as a film maker, because the attention to detail was abysmal. Then there was the acting which I wasn’t very convinced about. Fox is brilliant at expressing sorrow and pain, but she didn’t convince me as the super-happy-in-love middle aged woman when she started telling her story. Not that she didn’t deliver at all, she did. But something still felt off with her acting, especially when compared to Mehcad Brooks (who played Shannon, her con man love interest) whom when I wasn’t being distracted by his shoddy looking lace front hair, was believable. Fox just wasn’t able to convince me here that she is a round character who can really be versatile in interpreting roles. Bresha Webb initially seemed off too but as the movie played out she got better. Veterans Phylicia Rashad and Cecily Tyson were impressive as usual.
About 50-60% into the movie however, things started picking up. Bresha Webb got better and came into herself as per her delivery (which was good because her role was very pivotal in how the plot unfolded). I was starting to also feel Crystal Fox more but this didn’t numb the lingering feeling of a cliché story nagging me. The movie even at that point still felt predictable. But then suddenly, 80% into it, the plot twist happened. It took the story from basic and cliché to the next level.
The plot twist was really good. I didn’t think things will go in the direction it did at all. The only problem I had with this however was that it happened when the average person could have already lost interest and maybe not even finished the movie. I have heard some people argue that the twist still had some loop holes, but I liked it. Even in real life, the truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.
I had almost finished writing this review when I learnt that the movie was allegedly shot in 5 days. Yes you read right, 5 DAYS!!! Why this was so, is baffling to me. Even crazier, reports say that most of the actors had at most two takes to get their lines right because of the speed of the production. It is therefore unsurprising that the acting was subpar, and general attention to detail lacking. In fact if this new information is anything to go by, the actors deserve a lot of accolades. Shooting in 5 days must have pushed them hard and put them under a lot of pressure.
Also worthy of mention is that this is Crystal Fox’s first lead role in a movie. The 56 year old thespian/singer has been in the acting game since 1989, or at least that’s when the records of her acting dates back to. And this role is all thanks to Tyler Perry. Hate him or his storylines, he has given many black people especially women a chance to rise in Hollywood. For this alone, he will always be loved and respected by many.
A Fall from Grace may not be Tyler Perry’s finest effort as a movie maker and it does falls into the scorned black women trope he is constantly criticised for. Regardless, it was a decent movie overall, and the plot twist was a surprisingly good one. I’d rate it a 5, perhaps even a 6, especially considering the 5 day shoot tale.