Nasty, Nasty Boys Don't Mean a Thing
Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? / Agent Bedhead
Film Reviews | October 14, 2007 | Comments ()
Until now, I’ve never watched a Tyler Perry film, but as I understand it, Perry doesn’t really make films intended for my particular shade of albino. After all, every named character in Why Did I Get Married? is black, and the few white actors that appear only do so to antagonize the black characters. Of course, Tyler Perry does have quite the loyal following, and as an audience, they are quite vocal in their support. A playwright by trade, Perry is known for exploring serious issues through morality plays both onstage and, more recently, on television and movie screens. As part of the Tyler Perry playbook, Why Did I Get Married? has been adapted from the successful theatrical play, which isn’t too surprising, considering that the film’s characters speak and move as if projecting onstage. The story’s premise involves four upscale black couples who take annual weeklong vacations to exotic destinations, and during these vacations, they ask themselves Why Did I Get Married? This year’s vacation, set at a lavishly modernized cabin in Colorado’s rocky mountains, quickly snowballs into volatile emotional territory.
Perry is well-known for appearing in his own productions, and I’ll admit relief that for once, Perry doesn’t appear in this one dressed in drag as Medea, the unlikely source of moral inspiration for a few of his plays and films. In Why Did I Get Married?, Perry appears as pediatrician Terry, who is one half of a power couple trapped in a sexless marriage. Terry’s hot wife, Dianne (Sharon Leal), recently named partner at her law firm, works 12-hour days, and is having an affair with her Blackberry. Dianne looks for guidance from her best friend, Dr. Patricia (Janet Jackson), who is an ambiguously-titled mental health professional, a bestselling author, and the film’s equivalent of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Patricia is nauseatingly preachy and eager to help everyone else with their “issues” but can’t cope with her own shortcomings. Patricia has also capitalized upon her friends’ marriages in her latest book, which is conveniently titled Why Did I Get Married?. Sporadically, characters accidentally mention a tragic event in Patricia’s recent past, which gives Janet (Ms. Jackson, If You’re Nasty) a chance to shed a single tear and brush it away; “I’m fine, really,” she says. This stellar dialogue is fairly consistent throughout the film’s wholly cruel 131 minutes.
The remaining two couples bring on the visible dysfunction. Sheila (Jill Scott) fears that her marriage is in trouble, and she believes that most of this is due to her 80 pound post-marital weight gain. Sheila’s husband, Mike (Richard T. Jones), is an arrogant, self-righteous jerk whose entire dialogue consists of fat jokes aimed at his wife. Sheila has been written as the sympathetic character, but I found little endearing about a yielding persona that bordered upon willful blindness. She’s even dumb enough to bring good friend Trina (Denise Boutte) along for the vacation. Trina, of course, is actually Mike’s mistress, and Sheila similarly looks past her husband’s insensitive reaction when she is asked to leave their crowded airplane due to her fatness. At Mike’s direction, Sheila obediently rents a car and drives to their destination while he stays on the plane with Trina. Sheila believes that, like everything else in life, this latest setback is solely because she is fat and not at all because her husband is a total dick. When Sheila arrives a full day later at the cabin, Mike (wearing a morning-after glow) immediately launches back into his cache of fat jokes. Sheila tells her concerned girlfriends that if she could only lose that 50 or so pounds, she could fix her marriage.
Meanwhile, Angela’s (Tasha Smith) husband, Marcus (Michael Jai White), is a former pro football player who got knocked out of the game a few years back due to an injury. Marcus has been emasculated by his more successful wife, and so he hits back by sticking his dick in other women. We’re even privy to a conversation (over woodchopping, no less) where Marcus secretly asks Terry to prescribe an antibiotic for his “burning” sensation because, you know, VD will jazz up just about any mind-numbing couples’ retreat.
Since these married couples are not shagging each other, Sheriff Troy Jackson (Lamman Rucker), provides a little romantic tension for the film. Other than that, the only high-water mark of this film was Tasha Smith, whose Angela evolves from the stereotypical alcoholic, abrasive loudmouth to the only character who speaks for the audience. Angela also pushes along the dialogue-oriented plot with a somewhat amusing climactic dinner where each spouse’s respective secrets are exposed, with justifiable results. Some of these revelations are admittedly surprising, but Angela herself doesn’t go unscathed for rather predictable, “burning” reasons. This joint confrontation scores well with Perry’s target audience, but the fallout lasts about an hour and drags down this so-called comedy film. One particularly sobering scene occurs as a conversation between the four married men, two of which have been cheating on their wives, and one of them is, to paraphrase Tarantino, right on the fucking line. The one guy who hadn’t cheated on his wife of ten years is, of course, mocked as “gay” by the other three men. All four women are eventually portrayed as the sources of their husbands’ miseries, and if they’d only “open up,” or “stop working so much” or “lose all that weight,” life would be swell. Yet of the equally imperfect men, only Mike really pays for his transgression. Perhaps in the future, Dr. Patricia will write more bestselling books to settle this uneven score. No doubt, Tyler Perry will bring the results to us in another stage play turned film.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found avoiding terms like “dramedy” at agentbedhead.com.