Nico’s Movie Review: ‘Acrimony’ Is Deceptive And Subversive
Tyler Perry lied to me!
When I saw trailers for Acrimony a month or so ago, I was really excited by it. Based on those trailers, I expected I was going to see a horror-thriller based around the character played by Taraji P. Henson being driven insane by jealousy and grief.
Instead of that, I got a Tyler Perry movie. I guess I should have seen that coming.
Now, I know that's a negative way to start things off. But this is the second film this year starring Taraji P. Henson that I've seen because of a deceptive trailer! (The first of course being Proud Mary; read my review here) I feel like they are using this incredibly talented woman as bait or something.
Now, Acrimony isn't bad, per se, and I'd certainly rather watch it a dozen more times than see another Madea movie. But it is not at all what I was promised.
Acrimony is the story of Melinda Moore (Taraji P. Henson, and Ajiona Alexus as her younger self for a significant portion), and of her relationship with the struggling genius Robert Gayle (Lyriq Brent, or Antonio Madison as young Robert). The framing device for the movie is Melinda in a court-ordered therapy session, running through her life, and why she is so angry. We know that she apparently violated a restraining order, but beyond that we don't know what she has done.
The film chronicles Melinda's first meeting with Robert, their eventual courtship and marriage, and of course Robert's inevitable infidelity. In this aspect the movie is most cliche; Melinda falls again and again for Robert's wiles, and keeps loving him, and supporting him financially, even though he gives her every reason not to trust him. This package is wrapped up by her sisters, who seem to exist story wise just to tell Melinda that her husband is a bum.
Throughout the film, we have Henson narrating key moments of her life as if she's speaking to the therapist, and this is a blessing and a curse; on one hand, Henson is awesome, and her delivery is spot-on as always. The problem is, the dialogue is often cliche, and sometimes misplaced; it's hard to take an emotional moment seriously, for example, when we have Henson sarcastically and caustically commenting on her own behavior.
For this first two thirds of Acrimony or more, I was incredibly disappointed and I almost walked out; this was not the movie I was sold!
Finally, though, as we near the final act of the film, we get to the stuff we were told by the trailer would be in. Melinda snaps, and it's almost like a puzzle coming together. The first hour and a half of this movie is absolutely not my cup of tea, with its soap opera drama and Tyler Perry tropes galore. However, once we near the end, many of these tropes are turned on their heads and we are left wondering; who is in the right? Is Melinda's rage justified? Or is she truly out of her head?
The thing is, I don't know if it would be possible for the last part of the movie to work without the lengthy first part, and that's why I liken Acrimony to a puzzle, or maybe a Jenga tower; if you pull out one piece, the whole thing comes crumbling down. And I have to admit, even as a whole it's not exactly a stable tower. That's a problem, because as someone who isn't a fan of melodrama it was hard to find any enjoyment out of the actual experience of watching most of this movie.
Now, I don't want to detract to strongly from the whole soap opera aspect of Tyler Perry films. I have heard him likened to the black William Shakespeare, and I honestly find it hard to disagree; full of intrigue, deceit, betrayal, and of course ironic tragedy. And I know many of you will scoff or be upset by that comparison, but it's important to remember that in Shakespeare's time, his plays were considered low-brow and crass, far from the lofty position we put them in today.
One more thing I have to say about Acrimony, though, is something that really really upset me about it. The character of Robert Gayle is the stereotypical struggling inventor, who just knows that he could make it big if people would believe in him. Unfortunately, no company wants to take him on, and invest in his idea.
What is his invention you may ask? Oh, just a Free energy machine. You know, something that defies the laws of physics, and could literally change the world as we know it beyond our wildest dreams. He literally describes it as a "battery that charges itself". Are you kidding me? Scientific impossibility aside, are you telling me that I'm supposed to believe that NO ONE is interested in his device? A device that would literally replace every power source on Earth?
This was such a big problem for me that it made it hard to take the rest of the movie seriously, and I wish Tyler Perry had just gone for something else entirely. Maybe Robert could have invented a new type of computer chip or something, ANYTHING that would have been more believable.
Is it possible to enjoy the idea of a movie, even if you don't like actually watching it? If it is, that's my experience with Acrimony. Taraji P. Henson is fabulous, and the other actors are quite good as well. And as far as Tyler Perry movies go, I really enjoy the subversion that takes place. Like I said, though, I feel for that subversion to work, we need to put up with the unenjoyable parts as well.
I'm not going to recommend this film or not; you'll need to make that determination yourself.
See the (incredibly deceptive) trailer below.