Tyler Perry has been making movies for at least ten years. He’s worked in the world of theatre longer than that. He’s worked with some terrific filmmakers like David Fincher and Lee Daniels. Why has he learned nothing?
Acrimony begins with a definition of what that word means. In case you wander into the theater without a clue about what you’re going to watch. It follows Melinda, played by Taraji P. Henson, a woman scorned, bitter and, ahem, acrimonious. She recounts the story of her failed marriage to an unseen therapist who she’s meeting with under court order. This leads to a flashback which eats up 80% of this two-hour movie, following when she met her ex-husband, Robert, in college, up until present day.
This is the funniest movie I’ve seen all year. I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be.
For a person who claims to write such terrific material for women, Tyler Perry has made one of the most hideously misogynistic movies I’ve ever seen. Despite being set from Melinda’s point of view, the script sides with Robert at every turn. It gets to a point where it attempts to discuss mental illness, as the therapist suggests a diagnosis—not the right one—for Melinda. But it’s brushed aside, because she’s a crazy lady on the loose, and there’s no stopping her!
I make this all sound more exciting than it is. The first mind-numbingly boring half is led by two actors that play younger versions of the two leads, Ajiona Alexus and Antonio Madison. They’re both terrible, especially Madison. We follow the courtship, his being unfaithful, her forgiving him, their wedding, their miserable life together and it all feels so tedious, until the last 20 minutes or so, when it all begins to go off the rails.
Tyler Perry really should have grown as a filmmaker by now. In several scenes, there is noticeably bad green-screen. It does not look like a finished film. The script is also full of laughably bad dialogue that is an insult to the actors forced to deliver it.
It goes without saying that Taraji P. Henson deserves better. She’s one of the hardest working women in Hollywood and she elevates all she does. She’s also an actor in desperate need of a new agent. This film hangs her out to dry in a way that’s truly insulting. She has some of the most terrible dialogue and she delivers every line, even voiceover, in the same exaggerated tone. The fact that they let certain takes into the final cut is embarrassing. Henson and Perry have mentioned that this film was made in eight days. It shows.
Not only does this incredibly sexist film set feminism back about 30 years, it also ignores the very enlightened conversation going on currently about the destigmatization of mental illness. This film is crude and, honestly, quite offensive when it tries to talk about what’s really going on with Melinda. But this movie doesn’t want to talk about her mental condition. It wants her to be Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and not tell the story about a woman getting the help she needs.
In the end, Acrimony is reductive, overlong, and unintentionally hilarious. It’s tedious and exhausting until about the final act, where it becomes truly appalling. Henson deserves a juicy role that doesn’t condescend to her, and there’s really no excuse for Perry not to have learned from his mistakes by now.