It’s times like this that I have to remind myself over and over that it’s almost summer. March hasn’t been too terrible overall, but a load of mediocre movies can almost be worse than a load of terrible movies. When it comes to mediocrity, Tyler Perry seems to be the undisputed king. You’ve got to give the man some credit for carving out an entire genre for himself that has stayed in the realm of profitability for over a decade. Beyond that though, I have never felt any drive to see one of his movies and it has nothing to do with race (I say knowing some people will claim it anyway). Officially the first Perry film I’ve seen all the way through, Temptation doesn’t give me much more faith in the man than I already had. Though it picks up a bit during the end, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is plagued by terrible acting, mediocre writing and a completely mishandled premise that should deter most viewers from giving it the time of day.
The Plot: 4/10
An ambitious married woman’s temptation by a handsome billionaire leads to betrayal, recklessness, and forever alters the course of her life.
As I said above, the movie does save some face in the last 20 minutes or so when things finally start building towards a conclusion. Before those 20 minutes, however, there is absolutely nothing of interest that happens beyond Harley’s not-so-subtle attempts to sleep with Judith. The biggest issue with these two segments is that there is very little transition between them. Judith goes from being a tightly wound southern christian to an immature, coke-snorting adulteress in nothing flat. Other than that, the movie was far too predictable to really keep me interested.
The Writing: 3/10
When it comes down to it, a movie’s writing can be separated into two different areas; characterization (personalities and development of each character) and dialogue (what each character says and how well those words fit with the intended characterization). With regards to Temptation, I felt that the writers did a decent (if perhaps somewhat lazy) job with the characterization but a terrible job with the dialogue. Sure, most of the characters are pretty derivative of similar films, but I was at least happy to see that Judith’s husband was portrayed as well-intentioned yet clueless instead of as an overall jerk. A lot of these kinds of movies are incredibly heavy-handed when it comes to how black and white they treat the “temptation” angle, but the fact that Brice is portrayed as a nice guy whereas Harley comes across as the kind of manipulative asshole that many women seem to be attracted to.
As far as the dialogue, there’s really just nothing that stands out. There aren’t a lot of scenes that even attempt to show off any sort of wit, and of those only a few really hit home. The only sort of comic relief that actually worked for me was the old pharmacy owner that occupies the token-white-person role that Tyler Perry seems to love throwing into his movies. The script is by far at its clumsiest when handling the awkward flirtation between Judith and Harley. It takes more than the exchange of extended longing stares to write a believable romance.
The Acting: 1/10
I cannot stress enough how terrible the performances are from nearly everyone involved (with the possible exceptions of Lance Gross and Brandy Norwood). I realize that most of Tyler Perry’s movies are strongly geared towards the African American community, but as a simple film critic I don’t understand how anyone on the production side could have been okay with the quality of the acting involved.
The biggest issue here is that in a movie that revolves around an affair between two people, a huge measure of the film’s effectiveness is how believable the two leads are in their attraction to each other. Unfortunately, there is little to no chemistry between Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Harley (Robbie Jones), and this
makes the parts of the film that focus on their relationship incredibly boring. In regards to Jones, it’s clear that they were trying to make him seem confident and passionate, but he ends up coming across less suave and more rape-y. Smollett-Bell overacts in nearly every scene and ends up very difficult to sympathize with (though the ending might suggest that this is somewhat intentional)
As for the supporting cast, Brice at least feels more like a real person and at least some of that credit has to go to Lance Gross. Brandy Norwood also stands slightly above the fray, though that fact is more attributable to the fact that her character is at least slightly interesting than it is to Norwood’s performance. Other than those two, though, things go
downhill pretty quickly. Vanessa Williams’s fake french accent is just plain weird, and even though that particular aspect of her character was intentional that way it still made me cringe every time she spoke. Still though, everyone involved looks like an absolute Thespian compared to the incessantly repulsive Kim Kardashian. Every single time the woman is on screen I had to view the proceedings though an extended face palm. If she is snubbed at the Razzies this year it will be an injustice of biblical proportions.
The Drama: 4/10
This seems to be my mantra for this review but the movie would have been better suited if it had cut off the first 40 minutes or so as if it were an enormous cinematic tumor. If that were the case, I might almost be able to forgive the movie for its terrible acting and cliche plot twists on account of the fact that it at least had enough going on to distract from those aspects. Unfortunately, absolutely nothing even remotely powerful in terms of drama happens in the first hour or so and by the time anything worthwhile comes around you’ll have probably either dozed off or left the theater.
My final note in terms of drama would be that if you’re going to go to the movie, stay for the end. I personally don’t think the ending makes up for the movie’s flaws, but it at least raises the stakes enough to make you feel like you didn’t totally waste the last two hours of your life.
The Verdict: 3.0/10 – Just Plain Bad
+ The last twenty minutes or so are by far the most interesting…
– …but it takes nearly 90 minutes of melodramatic fluff to get there
– Some of the worst dramatic acting I’ve seen all year
– Incredibly predictable and full of genre cliches (plot-wise at least)
Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
The Focused Filmographer: 2.5/5