Movie Review - Acrimony (2018)
It's not to say that black women can't be angry on screen. If her anger is justified, then that's fine. A black woman raising her voice, standing up for herself, fighting back or pushing a strong feminist position is fine as well. It can get a little problematic when a black woman is portrayed as crazy simply for crazy's sake, which might be Perry's mistake here. Even his debut film as a writer-only, Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), despite its title, doesn't make the mistake of portraying its black woman as unjustifiably crazy.
Perry probably believed he was making something pulpy like the recent When the Bough Breaks (2016), which was itself an all African-American remake of Fatal Attraction (1987). However, he structures this film in a similar way as his 13th film as director, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013). He does so in a way of subverting expectations, which he accomplishes. Ironically, he does such a good job of subversion that there's hope in the film's very extended, third act that he won't succumb to those expectations. Unfortunately, he does succumb to those expectations, which only undermine what could have been a compelling message. Yet, the movie devolves into ridiculous violence that throws out all the amazing subversion that preceded.
The first hour or so is rather strictly Melinda's point-of-view, as Henson mainly narrates. The first hour of this movie is designed to make the audience hate Melinda's ex-husband. It does so with Melinda telling the therapist about how she met her husband as a teenager. Ajiona Alexus who played the younger version of Henson's character on FOX's Empire also plays the younger version of Henson's character here. Melinda accidentally meets a young college student named Robert, played as a teenager by Antonio Madison. He's tall, dark, handsome, charming and Melinda easily and naively falls for him. Henson's narration undercuts the romance. It's redundant because it's obvious to see and feel what's happening but the narrtion does add a nice dose of humor. Then, the movie takes a turn in its second hour.
The final straw comes when Melinda thinks Robert is having an affair. She immediately kicks him out and divorces him. He denies it and begs her to take him back. Because he was unfaithful when they were teenagers, Melinda doesn't believe him. However, the movie switches, so that we're not locked into Melinda's point-of-view. We see the film from Robert's point-of-view and we get his perspective, so much so that arguably we begin to empathize more with Robert than Melinda. His arc is reminiscent of Will Smith's arc in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and just like the end of that movie, you feel for the guy.
Perry then tries to swing the pendulum the other way and have us be back in Melinda's point-of-view and be possibly on her side, but he literally goes overboard with the final few minutes of this film. It escalates to a level of violence that is nowhere near as cathartic, as when Robert literally hands Melinda a huge check of millions of dollars. Maybe, Perry didn't want Melinda to be perceived as only caring about money, but the final minutes of the movie portray her as nothing else.
Rated R for language, sexual content and violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs.