Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Chicago SunTimes (1 Star)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Chicago SunTimes (P. Sobczynski) review

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor [2013] (written and directed by Tyler Perry) is a well-made African-American oriented film (and Tyler Perry is, of course, an African-American film maker) with a strong moral message -- DON'T CHEAT.  The film is slick, modern, and runs very much like the famous morality films Fatal Attraction [1987] and War of the Roses [1989] only that the central character (the one being tempted) is not played by Michael Douglas but is rather an African American character named Judith (played by Jurnee Smolett-Bell). 

The film begins at a run down, government run, probably "pro-bono" counseling service presumably in Washington D.C., where a rather poor young white couple has come for "marriage counseling."  The young husband doesn't know what's going on, but certainly wants to save his marriage.  The wife just feels that "it's over."  Upset and dispondent, the husband gets up and leaves.  The woman taking more time is stopped by the counselor who asks, "What's really going on?"  The young woman confesses to her, "He really deserves someone better than me."  Not buying it, the counselor a serious looking African American woman in her forties asks the young woman a la Danny DeVito's role in War of the Roses [1989], "Can I tell you a story?"  The young woman says yes.  And thus the counselor begins telling the story of Judith...

Judith was an African American woman born somewhere down South raised by her very Christian devoted mother (played by Ella Joyce).  Ma' was strict but kept her basically on the right path.  Judith's grades were good.  Though ma' never much liked Judith's childhood sweetheart Brice, she kept Judith and Brice honest (and probably scared ... ;-) throughout their teenage years, and finally when Judith (and Brice) were truly old enough, she consented to them getting married, which they did either during or shortly after college. 

The story resumes with the two, Judith (played by Jurnee Smolett-Bell) and Brice (played by Lance Gross) living as a young wide-eyed-happy recently married couple living in a nice small apartment in Washington D.C.  Each had "starter jobs" in their degree fields.  Brice found himself working in a small independent pharmacy, Judith with an MS in Counseling (and having dreams of opening up her own Marriage Counseling practice) working for now as an "in house" psychologist/advisor for a somewhat pretentious Washington D.C. "Match Making Service" run by a 40-something woman named Janice (played by Vanessa Williams). 

Indeed, Judith initially looked down on the place where she worked, suspecting it to be, at the end of the day, a higher-end Escort Service for older men even it pretended perhaps even hoped to be better than that.  Still it was a job ... and eventually Judith hoped to make enough money to be able to open up her own _honest_ marriage counseling practice.

Enter the Snake..., Harley (played by Robbie Jones), a rich African American entrepreneur, who according to Judith's more up-on-the-gossip/worldly coworker Ava (played by Kim Kardashian) made it big by inventing a somewhat slicker, more hip-hoppier version Facebook.  He comes to Janice's Service as a potential investor / social media partner.  Janice having liked Judith's previous work with improving her Service's questionaires asks Judith to work with Harley to see how the Service could further benefit from partnering with Harley's social media outlet.   Of course Harley, who's used to getting what he wants, decides that he wants the very married but previously rather sheltered (and also rather ambitious) Judith.   Much ensues ...

Of course, eventually Judith falls (otherwise there wouldn't be a story...).  What's perhaps interesting is the point at which she falls and how Harley finally gets to her.  Then once Judith falls, the film follows a trajectory similar to Michael Douglas' Fatal Attraction [1987].  Basically, the worst possible scenario plays out...

Now I don't quite understand the "hate" that many critics have given this film.  It's obvious that the film is intended to be a morality tale.  And I honestly don't see ANY DIFFERENCE in the story's setup or its playing-out from its white cousins -- Fatal Attraction [1987] and War of the Roses [1989] -- that I've already mentioned above.  If anything, the Tyler Perry's story is slicker and more updated to our time.

Now Parents, I would say that the film is not intended for kids or even for young teens even if its nudity (none at all) and violence (some but clearly more implied than shown) quotients are sufficiently low for the film to qualify for its PG-13 rating.   However, I just don't think that most kids or even teens would find the film particularly interesting, though young adults and younger married couples would probably enjoy AND UNDERSTAND it far more. For the film's message is both very simple and yet very professionally delivered: DON'T CHEAT.  And IMHO that's a message worth hearing.

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