Writer/Director: Tyler Perry
Stars: Tyler Perry, Matthew Law, Crystal Fox, Bresha Webb, Mehcad Brooks
By Mique Watson
He’s done it, he’s finally done it! Writer/director Tyler Perry has brought into existence, this demonic spawn of a film, this thing–this living, breathing creature from the depths of darkness where no light penetrates. Given what I’ve seen from Perry, I was expecting awful, but this far exceeds anything my mind could’ve conjured up. This spectacularly misogynistic monstrosity is one of the most inept films I’ve ever seen. Cheaply made, phoney, stilted, insultingly asinine…and all I can say is: Watch. It. Now.
This is a film where someone gets charged with first-degree murder (talk of the death penalty is present too!) despite there not being a body at the crime scene–a hint of the unimaginable idiocy to come. The film opens up with a woman throwing herself off a roof–frantically, like a cat being dumped in a pool–in an attempt to take her own life. Now, there would be some verisimilitude and drama to this…if it wasn’t the roof of a two-storey house–which it is. Yes, Perry has succeeded in creating a film where you laugh-out-loud at a suicide scene and feel not one single shred of guilt. And then the title card pops out: “Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace”
One of the officers present that evening, Jordan (Matthew Law), is married to Jasmine (Bresha Webb), a young public defender (yes, you heard that right–Webb plays a lawyer: this is like casting Stormy Daniels as a chemical engineer working on her 5th PhD) who has been assigned to defend a woman named *ahem* Grace (Crystal Fox). So, the titular Grace has been charged with murdering her husband–we know this because she has confessed to the crime. But here’s the catch: there was no corpse at the crime scene! Ooh.
This spectacularly misogynistic monstrosity is one of the most inept films I’ve ever seen. Cheaply made, phoney, stilted, insultingly asinine…and all I can say is: Watch. It. Now.
Perry has written Jasmine to be the most credulous lawyer the big (err–small) screen has ever seen. She shows absolutely no interest in evidence or proof. As a matter of fact, early on in the film, she seems completely unaware–and is shocked to realize–that being a lawyer entails defending people. She has to be reminded by someone else, over tea, that she ought to be taking notes whenever she interviews a witness.
We have no clue as to why this case has been assigned to Jasmine in the first place. Despite her colleagues showing a clear interest in it, we’re offered nothing to convince us of the motivation behind her boss (played by Tyler Perry himself) assigning it to her. One could perhaps argue that Perry was interested in telling us a story of an underdog proving her worth, but in the end–and I’ll try to be as vague as possible without giving anything away–her success comes not as a result of her deductive reasoning, rather, it comes from dumb luck (and a reveal that had my jaw smack on the floor).
And all this happens *before* Jasmine yells, and I quote, “I want to hire an expert in blood pattern and Luminol!” Uhh, you mean forensic investigators? You mean THE COPS? The very fact that she is holding a photo of the blood patterns–lit up my Luminol–goes to show that an investigation has already been done. And if no investigation had been done, this would imply that Grace was incarcerated without any due process. In Tyler Perry’s world, I suppose, Lady Justice doesn’t give two shits.
This is a film which thinks that all a compelling crime drama needs are a bunch of people yelling things like “smoking gun”, “beyond reasonable doubt”, and “circumstantial evidence”.
Anyway, so Jasmine–after a sudden change of heart–decides to start doing her job: in her efforts to unearth facts, she learns the truth behind Grace’s crime (why this information wasn’t already transcribed on her case file, I have no bloody idea). Perry uses flashbacks to depict the courtship and eventual romance the divorced, middle-aged Grace enjoyed with young, beefy, and charming photographer Shannon (Mehcad Brooks). They meet after Grace visits his gallery (with photos that look like they were pulled from a stock photo zip file) after her friend Sarah (Phylicia Rashad) urges her to get her single butt out of the house. Do note, Grace had initially turned down Sarah’s advice on attempting to find a decent man on “ChristianDateOnline.com”.
Fox is, according to her IMDB page, a veteran actress–here, her charms and expressiveness are absolutely wasted in this anti-woman horror. Literally, after one conversation with Shannon, he is instantly sending her roses and one of his photos from the gallery and this is her first hint to RUN. She nonchalantly ignores it.
A whirlwind romance instantly ensues; “he was everything I love in a man” she says…And then goes to say how good he fucks her. Her words, not mine. Literally, she cites no other discernible characteristics in her criteria for what an ideal man should be. What the hell is Perry trying to suggest here? That middle-aged women can be happy only with a man? Fuck that. What in the hell kind of regressive crap is this film trying to promote in 2020?
This romantic fairy tale comes to an abrupt halt when Grace suddenly gets fired from her job at a bank. It is revealed that a large sum of money has been taken from her account–under her name, with her signature of approval affixed to it. She gets fired instantly without any investigation–heck, during the firing she does and says absolutely nothing to get her job back. Is Perry trying to suggest that real-world law enforcement is incompetent–scrap that–non-existent?
So in the end, what are we left with? Well, a film so poorly shot it looks unfinished: no colour grading seems to have been done–as a result, the picture looks undersaturated and washed out.
So Grace is left to her own devices; she gathers some pretty damning evidence (CCTV footage that looks like it was shot from a special IMAX camera) and proceeds to confront the perpetrator BEFORE going to law enforcement. The perpetrator turns out to be too-good-to-be-true, Shannon…and this isn’t even a spoiler; every single detail I’ve disclosed is in both the film’s premise and trailer! Anyway, Grace then proceeds to do the thing which lands her in prison…My initial knee jerk reaction came in the form of a question: “wait, who in this house plays baseball?”
So in the end, what are we left with? Well, a film so poorly shot it looks unfinished: no colour grading seems to have been done–as a result, the picture looks undersaturated and washed out. The blocking is awkward. The studio lighting at night is so obvious, you’d probably think the scene took place in the afternoon had the night sky not been seen. The extras in the background look straight at the camera.
This is a film which thinks that all a compelling crime drama needs are a bunch of people yelling things like “smoking gun”, “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and “circumstantial evidence”. A film where the protagonist is a lawyer who needs to have the law explained to her by a condescending judge in the middle of a court hearing. A film where that same lawyer makes a case for her client’s innocence by citing that her client is not a cold-blooded killer because she is a grandmother who bakes cookies and doesn’t look like a murderer. A film where a policeman handcuffs a suspect and then tells them to wait while he checks downstairs (this goes just as well as you think it does). And the biggest crime: a film that ends with the horrifying threat of a sequel. Thrilling! Not.