Dear Mr. Perry,
Since the days of “Do the Right Thing” the black community has waited for a movie Messiah in Hollywood that would turn water into wine by making straight to DVD classics resemble works the likes of John Singleton circa 90’s when black movie-making was filled with integrity and promise. So congratulations, I think you’ve filled that role. I can’t help but respect your hustle. But a part of me feels like we’ve waited for blacks on the big screen in quality roles for so long that we can’t spot a flop when it falls before our eyes at 6’5” wearing a gray wig and screaming, “Call the Po Po, hoe!”
No I’m not about to go on a tirade about how the Madea film collection is actually coonery at it’s finest, because the truth is whether Madea is going to jail or Idris Elba is representing positive black fathers, Tyler Perry is doing something that Hollywood has failed to do for a long time: employing black actors and actresses.
I watched Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor the other night (warning some spoilers may follow, but if you don’t want to waste the $7.00 I did on Pay-Per-View, stick around). Like many of your movies I felt the story was the best part of the movie, but it wasn’t very well casted and I know freshman theater majors that could write a better script. Also in an attempt to spread a little social awareness once again you attempt to do the most in an hour and 30 minutes and fail miserably. Between Temptations and the last Tyler Perry masterpiece I tuned into, Good Deeds, you’ve tackled homelessness, AIDS, drug addiction, high-risk lifestyles, love and infidelity. I can’t begin to care about any of these issues if I can’t even tell if I’m watching a comedy, drama or a PSA. And let’s not get started on the action-adventure that was Alex Cross. First off, we don’t believe you, you need more people. Second, the best film makers stay in their lane. The people like to know what their signing up for. Steven Spielberg? Something phenomenal and ground breaking that will most likely refer to aliens. Tim Burton? Something creepy, gothic and animated but probably totally inappropriate for the kiddos. Quentin Tarantino? Violence, guns, murder and some kind of understated but profound comment on society buried beneath all of the blood. Take notes, Ty. You don’t have to be everything to everybody although the black community has nominated you Captain’ Save Em’ for the black film genre. Choose what you love best and do it well.
So let’s tackle this casting problem. You feature phenomenal actors in your films, but often place them in roles that don’t truly display their talents. In Temptation I couldn’t even begin to believe Lance Gross in the role of a timid, humble pharmacist who didn’t even turn his head when his wife left the house at all hours to get her stilettos smoked by a guy who seemed to have landed in the wrong film. I wanted Lance to switch roles with Robbie Jones who plays Harley, a rich man with an ego that could almost be sexy if you can get past what an unattractive cornball he is. I’m sorry, Robbie but I wasn’t really believing that any woman would choose your ass over the chocolate-covered Sir Lance-A-Lot.
Then there’s this issue of setting the scene. This whole life of drugs, money and sex made sense at let’s say at Def Row Records, but to a therapist at an urban Match.com run by Vanessa Williams…yeah I wasn’t making the connection. Plus how are a therapist and a pharmacist living in a spot that made my on campus apartment look like the Senators Suite at Caesars Palace? Once again, Mr. Perry, your staging is questionable.
I’m not exactly anxiously awaiting your next box office blockbuster, but some of your work has been fairly decent. I enjoyed Why Did I Get Married? (the first one moreso before Janet went all ape shit crazy). I feel like your best work is when you tackle a one or two topics per movie and tackle them well. You don’t see Martin Scorcese trying to tell the story of the Italian mob, corrupt government and also the abandonment issues and resentment felt by their wives and children…and AIDS…and illiteracy….and homosexuality all in one film.
For some reason I feel the black community assumes that any work that covers an issue other than drug addiction, the music industry, gangs and baby mamas and deadbeat daddies makes a poignant statement and is “good”, but that’s not true. Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever= good film. Spike Lee’s= Red Hook Summer= not so much. Great messages, but if the presentation, script and casting aren’t there, they get lost. They say those who can’t do, critique. I’ve never written or directed a movie a day in my life so like I said much respect to the men and women making moves in that industry. But I’mma need black women to stop running back to work, school or to their friends talking about how “good” your movies are, because the truth is they’re about one star away from being straight-to-Netflix potential. But thank you for giving the black community some work to believe in and making us at least feel enlightened and more socially aware.