Let us take a few minutes to praise Tyler Perry.
Seriously, so much time and energy has been devoted to writing about the numerous flaws that can be found in the majority of Perry’s film that I do think we can spare a few minutes to acknowledge all of the goods things about Tyler Perry.
First off, though he undeniably has an ego, Tyler Perry appears to be a decent human being and he frequently puts his money to good use. At a time when we’ve gotten used to hearing terrible things about some of the richest and most famous men around, Tyler Perry is unique in that we don’t ever seem to hear anything particularly negative about him as a person.
Secondly, Tyler Perry has proven himself to be a far better actor than I think anyone originally gave him credit for being. Just check out his performance in Gone Girl, for instance. He took a stock role, the flamboyant attorney, and played it with such wit and intelligence that he become one of the most interesting characters in the film.
Third, Tyler Perry’s films — regardless of what the critics may think of them — have provided roles for a lot of talented black actors and actresses who often don’t get the type of roles that they deserve from Hollywood.
Fourth, Tyler Perry proved that there was a market out there for all sorts of films made for and by black people. Though many are still loathe to admit, Tyler Perry has played a huge role in changing the way the film industry views black audiences.
With all that in mind, it’s kind of tragic that, for all the good things that you can say about him, he’s still an absolutely terrible director. There’s nothing wrong with having an ego (and, as my fellow site contributors can tell you, I’ve certainly got a healthy one myself) but I sometimes think that the same ego that has allowed Perry to become a success and do so much good has also prevented him from growing as a director. How else do you explain that, after having directed over 20 films, Tyler Perry still often seems like a very enthusiastic film student who is just now making his first feature? How else do you explain that he’s keeps making the same rookie mistakes — i.e., boom mics slipping into the shot, continuity errors, and melodramatic tone changes that often seem to come out of nowhere — even though he’s been doing this for 16 years?
This brings us to A Fall From Grace.
A Fall From Grace was Tyler Perrry’s 21st film as a director. It was also the first film that he made for Netflix and he also apparently shot it in 5 days. There aren’t many directors, outside of Roger Corman, who can claim to have shot an entire film in 5 days. Most directors, of course, would know that you need more than 5 days to shoot a film, especially one that wants to explore a serious issue. Corman may have spent two days on Little Shop of Horrors but that’s a movie about a talking plant. A Fall From Grace takes on the criminal justice system.
Jasmine (Bresha Webb) is a public defender who doesn’t get emotionally involved with her clients and who almost always makes a plea deal. Her husband (Matthew Law) is a cop who is haunted by a recent suicide. Jasmine’s latest client is Grace Walters (Crystal Fox), who has been arrested for murdering her husband (Mehcad Brooks). Grace wants to plead guilty but Jasmine suspects that there might be more to the case than anyone realizes. Why Jasmine suddenly takes an interest in taking Grace’s case to trial is never really that clear but it does lead to a lot of melodrama and a lot of rather clumsy flashbacks. Eventually, Jasmine just kind of stumbles onto the truth and has to fight to reveal what really happened.
The story is nearly impossible to follow and the film’s action often seems to drag. Probably the best thing about the film is that Perry himself plays Jasmine’s sarcastic boss. Perry has a truly impressive beard and he seems to be having fun with the character. Crystal Fox gives an effective performance as Grace and Phylicia Rashad has some good moments as Crystal’s friend. Even Mehcad Brooks is convincing, even if he does get stuck with the film’s worst lines. But Bresha Webb and Matthew Law are boring as the main couple and the story gets bogged down with flashbacks. It’s just not a very good film.
Still, the film was reportedly one of the most viewed movies on Netflix during the weekend of its release. The critics may not have embraced the film but Perry has shown repeatedly that you don’t need the critics on your side to be a success.