The Last Thing The Demographic Needs: Tyler Perry’s Temptation
Decent pacing? (Almost nothing)
Unlikable characters, Ridiculously simple conflict, Terrible acting
In what is supposed
to be a taut sexual thriller, Tyler Perry presents black people as
oversexed animals who consistently have no moral core.
I’ve never been one of those people who easily bought into Dr. Cosby’s
logic that black entertainers who fail to portray blacks in a positive
or progressive light are the bane of black culture. For almost all of
American History, black culture has been anything but homogenous (the
Civil Rights movement, for example, had both Dr. King and Malcolm X) and
Cosby blaming Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor or rap music for the lack of
respect blacks receive from whites is a gross oversimplification. In
fact, I have eagerly adopted the philosophy that economic motivators
unify Americans far more than ethnicity. So, it is not with a
simplistic naïveté that I assert that Tyler Perry’s Temptation is
easily the worst portrayal of blacks in years. For those who think it
is degrading for Tyler Perry to prance around in drag, they have nothing
on the way his characters are portrayed in Tyler Perry’s Temptation.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation
would make any group of people look
terrible, it just happens that Tyler Perry makes all of his characters
black, which reflects poorly on the demographic. A very basic story of
sexual obsession, Tyler Perry’s Temptation
is populated by
characters who talk a good game for love, fidelity, and faith, but are
entirely lacking in their ability to stick with what they say they
believe or feel. Had the film been cast with, for example, white
Southern Baptists, the film would not seem at all shocking (whatwith the
number of disgraced people of faith who are exposed as hypocrites), but
it would have seemed somehow less offensive. Tyler Perry’s Temptation
seems built on the stereotypes of black promiscuity, womanizing and
spousal abuse without anything truly more complicated or original.
Judith married her high school boyfriend, Brice. Now, six years later,
she feels he does not pay attention to her. He returns each day from
his job at the pharmacy to neglect her and though she remembers the
potential of the relationship, she feels he has stopped working on the
relationship. Judith gets a new client at her work, a powerful and
wealthy social media mogul named Harley. Harley begins hitting
relentlessly on Judith and she is excited by his attention.
So, Judith has an affair on Brice with Harley and she quickly becomes
obsessed with him. Harley, however, is a player and his initial
attraction to her soon degenerates into physical assaults on Judith and
complications in Brice and Judith’s marriage.
And it is virtually impossible to care. Tyler Perry’s Temptation
has entirely unlikable characters who fall into entirely formulaic roles. The name is a bit of a misnomer: Tyler Perry’s Temptation
is not about temptation. Surprisingly little of the film has to do
with the emotion of temptation – the presence of a threat to a
relationship, a tantalization, with the implication of resistance to
that interference to the normal flow of the relationship – and instead
it becomes a full-blown affair exceptionally quickly. But more than
that, the tantalizing of Judith is presented as such an obvious
dichotomy that there is no real dramatic tension to the film; from the
moment Harley appears on screen, viewers know that he is going to get
The spiraling of events that stem from the affair are thus equally
predictable. I’m not saying that virtually every film focusing on
relationships in the black community becomes a cheap retread of What’s Love Got To Do With It?
, but the pattern of attraction, infidelity, and abuse is so obvious as to be disappointing.
At least as important is how the characters do not pop. Judith makes
only paltry attempts to actually work on her marriage, which make her
seem entirely unsympathetic. Brice is a hardworking guy who is
presented as diligent and caring, even if he seems a bit distant after
None of the performers seem at all compelling or well-presented. Robbie
Jones (Harley) is presented with an incredibly generic sense of person.
He is the smoldering good looking guy who is supposed to be able to
melt women with his eyes and given how Lance Gross looks comparable, it
is hard to get the “overwhelming” sexual magnetism of Jones. This makes
Judith seem cheap as opposed to tempted.
For her part, Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays Judith in an uncompelling way.
She and Jones have no real sexual chemistry; she reacts to him, but
there is a stiffness to her performance that makes it seem like the
actress is holding back, as opposed to the character having some moral
reservations. Smollett-Bell presents nothing to make Judith appear
original or incredible in any way. In fact, her performance is bland
enough that it is hard to see what Harley sees in Judith . . . other
than her looks. So, while Judith is supposed to be a smart
professional, she is presented with the emotional intelligence of the
average housewife who appears on The Jerry Springer Show
Ultimately, Tyler Perry’s Temptation
should be a flop, not just
because of what it says about the characters in it (regardless of their
ethnicity) but because the lackluster characters who are doing
reprehensible things to one another fail to resonate because of insipid
acting from performers who have so much more potential than they are
given in this film.
For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Oz The Great And Powerful
Jack The Giant Slayer
21 And Over
For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page
for an organized listing!
Edited by Random Thoughts - Mar 21 2013 at 7:58pm