Movie Review - Good Deeds
|Tyler Perry and Thandie Newton|
(on bike) in "Good Deeds"
Tyler Perry plays Wesley Deeds III, a business owner in San Francisco who is engaged to be married. Gabrielle Union (Bad Boys II and Daddy's Little Girls) plays his fiancée, Natalie. She loves Wesley but thinks he's rather predictable. Wesley is a man who plays by the rules. He has a good heart and has carved out a routine life for himself because he wants to live up to expectations, especially those of his late father who bequeathed him his computer company.
Brian White (Stomp the Yard and The Game Plan) plays Walter, Wesley's younger brother who is an executive at the company. Walter is jealous that Wesley is running the company because he wants to be in charge. He is that much bitter because he possibly could have been in charge but had a few DUIs and lost his license. There is possibly more going on here, but Perry never gives us any more. Thankfully, White is a good enough actor that he can convey a lot with little.
The actor who gets the most though is Thandie Newton (Beloved and Mission: Impossible II) who plays Lindsey, a single mother who works as a janitor at night at Wesley's company. The movie focuses on her, as a series of unfortunate events happen to her. All of which build to the crisis that she might lose custody of her daughter, Ariel.
The crux of this story is the confluence of Lindsey and Wesley's worlds and how each has a profound impact on the other. Wesley has an impact on Lindsey financially and Lindsey has an impact on Wesley emotionally and spiritually. While each impact is commendable on its surface, I don't think that either impact speaks to the message that has been inherent in Perry's own story or the stories he has brought to the screen thus far.
It is worth noting first that I feel Perry and Newton have good chemistry, perhaps better chemistry than Perry has had with other on-screen love interests. This is most likely due to Newton's incredible gifts as an actress. I did buy their romance, even if I didn't agree with it.
If you look at Lindsey's situation, there is a lot of echoes to the recent Will Smith film, also starring Thandie Newton, The Pursuit of Happyness. That film is more triumphant because the story involves a single parent who falls into dire financial difficulty but is able to dig himself out of it, all by himself. This movie is less triumphant because Lindsey doesn't dig herself out. Wesley who is a very wealthy businessman rescues her.
Perry's point probably is that some people in some situations are such that they can't save themselves. They're stuck in quick sand and need a helping hand. If so, Perry is probably more going after an idea of charity and how giving is more rewarding than receiving at least on a spiritual level. As such, the movie is more about Wesley rescuing not Lindsey but himself.
If that's the case, his message about wealthy people remains as off-putting and stereotypical as it always has been. We are to gather that Perry believes that no happiness can be found in this wealthy man's life or for that matter in this city. With Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), Perry uses the easy device of classism to spur conflict or drama when it only feels forced.
What also feels forced at times is the sibling rivalry between Perry and White. It's not as nuanced as the rivalry between the two brothers also with daddy issues in Jason's Lyric (1994), but White does a good job in that he's a great counter point to Perry's character who is reserved and repressed in his nature. As compared to Perry's Madea character, this acting is really dialed down. It's Perry's most subtle acting and probably closer to him being himself.
It's odd because this is also the most romantic and sexual that Perry has ever been on screen. He puts it right up front too. The first scene, the very first visual, is Perry in the shower, steamy and wet. Even though he keeps the shots tight, it's the most skin, his own skin, that he's ever shown. In fact, in one moment he's totally nude, but it's played with him out of focus and in the background.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, and some violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.