All the Things I Would Rather Watch Taraji P. Henson Do Than Be in 'Tyler Perry's Acrimony'
This was initially supposed to be a review of Tyler Perry’s Acrimony. But I have seen Acrimony, and I have very little to say about it. Its narrative about a woman looking for revenge against her ex-husband after she believes he manipulated her financially and cheated on her throughout their relationship is slightly more morally grey for Perry, who (despite his considerable influence in Hollywood and a devoted fanbase who support his micro-budget films with sizable returns) so often uses his films to condescend to and patronize women. No one gets HIV for cheating here, as Jurnee Smollett-Bill did in Tempation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, and sexual assault and rape aren’t used as character development, as they were in I Can Do Bad All By Myself, another Perry project starring Henson.
But even without those elements, whenever Acrimony is presented with a typical filmmaking choice or an absurd one, it goes with the latter. Some of this affects the technical quality of the movie (a green screen used to simulate a park; why couldn’t they just film at a park?) but moreso it impacts the plot and the character development, which asks Henson, as the wronged Melinda, to act increasingly irrationally. She intentionally smashes her car into her boyfriend’s RV after she thinks he cheated. She starts stalking her ex and his new girlfriend. And during court-ordered anger management sessions with a therapist, she acts aggressive and hostile.
Still, some of her behavior could be sympathetic, given particular circumstances. For years, her husband tinkers on a tech project that seeps Melinda’s inheritance, stretches their finances, and forces her to work two jobs to keep them afloat. He fails to be totally truthful with her. And Henson, per her usual excellence, digs into resentful dialogue with gusto, like telling her husband “You know I can be the motherfucking devil” and later describing him as a “low-life maggot of a motherfucker.” I mean, I get it! All the adult years of her life devoted to a man who cared more about what she could provide to him than who she actually was, and then watching another woman assume the role she considered rightfully hers — who wouldn’t feel jealousy and rage over that?
But then the final 10 minutes of the film completely undo any sympathy you may have had for Melinda before — and also underline her statement earlier in the film that “Every time a black woman gets angry, she’s a stereotype.” Cool, thanks, Tyler Perry. Then you made the angry black woman who said that into an actual stereotype! Ugh.
So here are moments of Henson’s that I wish I had rewatched instead of seeing Acrimony, which ultimately ended in typical Perry fashion, delivering yet another scornful warning against women for acting on their feelings and presenting only the worst-case option for behavior inspired by emotions (and it’s a bummer that this film arrives only a few months after another disappointing one starring Henson, Proud Mary):
Henson’s next projects include Wreck-It Ralph 2 and a film about Emmett Till, which she will also produce. So yeah, better stuff than Acrimony is undoubtedly in her future.