This was a great way to spend Easter Sunday! It is true that we watch a lot of Tyler Perry films and a good amount of them run together, especially the movies in the Madea-verse. However, Temptation stands out as one of my favorites.
As of right now I would have to say that TP’s more dramatic movies are the ones that have truly captured my heart. His comedies are fine considering they are still trying to be pretty serious but the ones where the great TP stays behind the camera and pours his whole vision onto the screen are truly where his genius comes out.
Though I have come to the realization that For Colored Girls is my all-time favorite as of now, Temptation is a pretty close second I think. It is full of such awful characters it’s impossible to actually care for anyone, leaving you with a ton of time for laughs and excitement at the cost of others. Yes, the wife may have cheated on the husband but he expects her to cook every meal, wait 15 years to try to open her own practice, and only have sex in the bedroom when he is good and ready? I think we’re supposed to feel sorry for this guy/their marriage but how can you when everyone is so tragic and awful?
I feel I have already talked enough but this film has so many problems with it it’s definitely worth the watch but of course that’s every movie TP directs. INSTANT CLASSIC!!
We saw Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor on Easter Sunday, which was probably a good choice to reiterate one of the movie’s themes: Christianity = good, everything else = bad.
Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays Judith, a therapist working at some high-end matchmaker service in DC (and we know it’s DC because of the repeated establishing shots of the capital and various other monuments). She’s married to Brice (Lance Gross), her childhood sweetheart (from like age 5 or something). They’re from an unknown small town, which is supposed to be in the south, presumably Georgia, but also sort of looks like mid-century Kansas? But whatever. Judith and Lance get married and move to DC (REMEMBER, WE’RE IN WASHINGTON, D.C.) to pursue their dreams: Lance wants to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming . . . a pharmacist? And Judith wants to fulfill her life-long dream of becoming . . . a marriage counselor? This implies that these are professions they dreamed of having as children, which I sort of doubt. If so, they were extremely practical children. They’re “struggling,” even though they live in a super sweet apartment. Brice tells Judith they can afford for her to start her own practice in 10-15 years, discouraging news. Here’s what I’m curious about: if they’re starting out poor (which we are told but not shown), why the hell did they choose to move to one of the most expensive cities in the US? It’s not like DC is the therapy or pharmacy capital of the US; both are professions that one could presumably find pretty much anywhere else.
Anyway, Judith’s story is framed as a story being told by her sister, who is a marriage counselor in some kind of social services place, who is relaying the story to a woman who is thinking of cheating on her husband. You might think it’s curious that Judith, who dreamed of being a marriage counselor, has a sister who is also a marriage counselor but . . . stop thinking. So, Judith becomes involved with Harley (Robbie Jones), a super rich, super creepy guy who is, for whatever reason obsessed with Judith. Luckily, Judith dodges his (pretty forceful) advantages, because A.) She’s married and B.) Is a super Christian who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage. Meanwhile, Brice becomes involved with Melinda (BRANDY), but only in a platonic way because Brice is a saint. Did I not mention that? Yes, Brice is a saintly, God-fearing, buff dude. Sure, he might forget his wife’s birthday two years in a row (even though he seems to have few other people in his life), makes her feel ashamed for wanting to spontaneously have sex with him, and expects her to cook every meal even though she clearly has a harder, mores stressful job, but HE’S SUCH A PERFECT MAN. Melinda is on the run from her crazy ex, an abusive drug abuser. Blah blah blah.
Eventually, after a business trip to New Orleans in which Judith and Harley attend a board meeting on Bourbon Street, because that happens, they get together, although I do think Harley sort of assaults her. This isn’t ever brought up again, but he forces himself on her while she hits him and tries to push him away, repeatedly telling him no. Eventually she kisses him back but . . . shouldn’t that be a red flag? Especially when she has flashbacks to it while looking at herself in the mirror and crying? Doesn’t that make it seem like it was less like sex and more like rape? But whatever, I guess.
In pretty much no time, Judith gets sucked into Harley’s world of sex, drugs, and excess, while Brice literally stands by and watches (and cries). Judith eventually dumps Brice outside of a nightclub, which causes him to slam his car door so hard his window breaks. But it’s just because he’s so NOBLE! Luckily, Melinda is noble, too, because when Brice runs to her crying (almost literally) and tries to kiss her, she refuses because she knows he’s just in pain. I’m so glad there are two evil characters and two perfect characters playing opposite one another, because that makes for really interesting conflict.
So, yeah, we soon find out that A.) Melinda has HIV, B.) Harley is her evil ex that she’s running from and B.) Harley is the one that gave Melinda HIV. Brice and Melinda go to save Judith from Harley’s clutches; they find Judith beaten up and passed out in a bathtub, while Brice and Harley roll around fighting until they throw themselves through a random glass wall in Harley’s house. Because, you know, why not?
In the end, we discover that, alas, it was not Judith’s sister telling the story BUT JUDITH HERSELF, even though this woman looks nothing like the Judith we’ve been watching the whole time. Old Judith tells her client that she got HIV from Harley, (though she’s still pretending to be talking about her fake sister), which causes her client to “end her almost-affair.” Good work!
We then follow Old Judith to Brice’s pharmacy, where we see Not At All Old Melinda and Old Brice, whom we know is old because he has really fake, scraggly white pieces of hair. Brice gives her medicine to treat HIV, and then is greeted by a sexy new woman and a cute little kid, whom we learn is his new family. The credits roll as Old Judith slowly walks, practically stumbles, down the sidewalk, in dowdy clothes, to meet her crazy Christian mother at church.
There are several lessons here, but the main one is: if you cheat on your not-that-great-husband, you will be cursed with abuse, a drug addiction, HIV, and loneliness. Hooray! Tyler Perry scores another one for feminism.