[WARNING: This is a long post]
I didn’t have the heart to post this with the title of the movie that I saw in the name, because quite frankly I was ashamed of myself for seeing it in the first place:
That’s right, you probably guessed it. METABaron and I went to go see Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. No, no, killing me isn’t necessary. META wanted to go see it for shiggles (read: shits and giggles), and I was dragged along for the ride.
This review contains spoilers. If you want to see the movie, and don’t want to know what happened, don’t read until you’ve seen it.I want to start this review off with a disclaimer: If you couldn’t tell from the two paragraphs above, I do not like Tyler Perry films at all. That is my bias. If you are a fan or uninterested in seeing criticisms for his movies, please stop reading now. I will not tolerate butthurt emails or comments concerning my review.
I suppose I’ll begin with a general grade. I think that I would nitpick too much by going with a 1-to-10 scale, so I’m going to go with letter grades. I would give this film a D/D+. If I have to provide a number I would go with 5/10. I DID NOT LIKE THIS MOVIE. It was a struggle staying in my seat to watch it all the way through.
I will try my best to explain why:
It’s no secret that I don’t enjoy Tyler Perry’s films, namely because of the stereotypes that are used (pitting darker skinned characters against lighter skinned ones), and the gaps that conveniently fit things together that shouldn’t be. Both of those things took place in this film, although I will admit that I felt that he was a little less heavy-handed about skin colors in this movie.
The premise is exactly what’s been presented in the trailer/commercials, if you’ve ever seen them. A happily married couple is ripped apart by… wait for it… temptation. *sigh*
Things I liked about this film: The ending.
NO, I’m not being sarcastic, and I’m not trying to imply that what I liked was that the movie ended. I legitimately think that the end of the film was the best part of the film. It was consistent with the climax of the film and the plot resolution, and characters who had been good and loyal the entire film were spared the wrath of circumstances and rewarded for their consistency in personality and resolve during the film.
Characters I liked: Vanessa Williams, Kim Kardashian (Yes, I am not lying), Brandy Norwood, and Lance Gross (one of the leading male actors)’s characters. I liked them because, in my opinion, they were the only consistent characters in the film, and 3/4s of them were NOT main characters at all. In fact, the first two (Vanessa and Kim), probably only had a combined screen time of about 20-25 minutes, if even that. I suppose that this gives away how I feel about the actual main character(s), but I’ll save that for the negative commentary section. Kim played her role well, although it wasn’t anything special; Vanessa also played her role well, and deliver a chuckle-worthy line towards the end of the film. Brandy’s character seemed rather haphazardly thrown in, and didn’t really serve any purpose other than to conveniently provide information and counsel when no one else had been set up in a position to provide it – but she played it well and the character’s personality was likeable. Lance actually had a significant character, and to be honest his character was the person I liked most in the movie, aside from Vanessa.
Other good things: I’m trying really hard to look for good things about this movie, so I’m going to add the consistency of settings here. The setting and the pressures that occurred there made a lot of sense in the film. It was obviously set up that way for convenience, but all films settings are. This one was consistent not only with the character’s background, but I was willing to believe that the things that happened in those locations could have happened there. There was no point in the film when I was wondering how or why a character was in a specific location.
Things I didn’t like about the film: Oh, geez, where do I start?
Selective acknowledgment: I had problems with how the film treated the characters within and how the characters referenced events in the past. There were moments where characters were making decisions that, I felt, were based only in the occurrences that happened in the film itself and not anything prior. Important moments. Since this movie was about cheating in particular, it was difficult watching the main character become exasperated about her husband forgetting her birthday two years in a row:
-One, because the background specified that she and her husband had known each other for 19 years, married 6, and I find it very hard to believe that constantly being around a person in a married lifestyle would allow for forgetting a person’s birthday (or at least, not even realizing that their birthday was coming up). There was no prior indication that her husband was the forgetful type, or neglectful – so it really seemed like they were grasping at straws for something to tip her over the edge in terms of the logic of sleeping with another man.
-Two: It was literally as though her husband never did anything nice for her at all when she reflected on him and their marriage. In the beginning, the main character spoke about her husband being a nice guy, but that died out in the beginning of the film. Surely their love must have produced more good moments than a single mention? Because this movie involves two characters who have known each other since they were children, I would have expected more acknowledgment of some of the things that had happened between them to strengthen their relationship. There really isn’t any, and it makes it obvious from the start that their relationship was supposed to either fall apart or run the risk of being pulled apart by some external force.
Predictability: It’s difficult to think of a film that is more predictable than this one (other than the ending), at least to me. I suppose that, because sitcoms and melodramatic slice-of-life television series are all around us every day, it was easier to predict this than it would be to predict a dystopian future setting or something so far away from “real life”, but this movie seemed really, really predictable to me. The main character fell for all of the lines that she was supposed to, regardless of the buildup or situations that would have made it easier for her to resist the “temptation”. The main antagonist said everything that he was supposed to, didn’t switch up anything even when it was cheesy and obviously transparent. The film’s only real explanation for this behavior is, “Well, the grew up in the country and she’s not ready for the big city”, which is annoying and not necessarily true and very, very irritating.
The ‘Fuck Religion’ moment: [This is content related, and not an opinion on the film’s structure]
The only thing as bad as spoonfeeding the “miracles and blessings” religion and religious “values” to the audience of a film, to me personally, is sticking the subject of religion into a film so that a character can renounce it to convince the audience that “bad things happen” when you’re not religious. It strikes me as hamfisted and obnoxious. I understand that religion is an important thing to the characters of certain films, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, when religion extends beyond a part of a character and reaches out to imply that it is the only way that a character could have made a right decision or be able to tell right from wrong, I have a problem.
Cheating or not cheating has nothing to do with religion. Obviously, religious books and teachings are against cheating on a spouse. I am aware of this. However, the religious are not the only people against cheating on a spouse. Good people are against cheating on spouses. People with respect (not even like or love) for other people are against cheating on their spouses. People who take the feelings of others into consideration are against cheating. It’s as simple as caring about what you’re doing to the other person, thinking about it and making a decision. It is not a black and white issue. You do not have to be religious to do the right thing or make informed or carefully thought out decisions. Although films like this one may not say anything out right about it, their characters and the way the movie is written, dialogue and all, implies it. And it’s ridiculous.
Character Inconsistency: This was the kicker for the majority of the film. A lot of characters in this movie (namely the main character) did things that just didn’t seem justified by the film itself. This is tied in with my first point about the lack of acknowledging or mentioning certain background details, but still a separate point. The main character is a woman raised in a church background and led a god-fearing life. Despite this background, she is presented as a person who “doesn’t really” buy into religion, specifically Christianity, and simply followed the rules because it was how her mother raised her.
My problem with this is that it’s inconsistent. There is no reason given for her falling out of religious practices. She works often, and takes Sundays to rest. She does not often attend church because she works so hard. I get that. I know a lot of people like that. But physically not being in church doesn’t mean that you have completely given up on it. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to. The girl waited until she was married to have sex with her husband – If she snuck out to be with her boyfriend before they were married (which was also shown in the film), why would she wait until she was married if she didn’t believe in doing it?
I realize that arguments could be made as to why, and in what circumstances, these things could happen, but that’s rather my point: The movie doesn’t give you circumstances to fill in how or why this is working in this way. There is no wayward dialogue, no situations or exposition about how things worked out the way that they did.
To be honest, most of the things that I didn’t like about this film can fit into this category with the proper reasoning.
Throwing in information: This movie also does this a lot. Details that would help shape certain scenes in the way that the writer wants it to go are just tossed in at the last minute to push the viewer into agreeing with what is happening, and it makes little sense. A talented screenwriter would find a way to work in an action, reaction or scene that would show the personality or past of a character so that the audience can accept what happens later.
When the main character’s mother shows up to counsel her, she of course knows her daughter better than anyone else and suspects that something’s going on that her son-in-law doesn’t know about. While arguing with her daughter about the behavior she’s seen, the main character suddenly brings up a lie in the past that her mother told her, as though one mistake (or omission of truth) totally undoes or discredits her mother’s hard work and effort in raising her or even in visiting her to check up on her and her well-being.
The same thing happens with the fact that her husband forgot her birthday two years in a row – information just gets dropped without any sort of background to get tension up, and completely disregards the integrity of the storyline.
Faulty Decision Making: Suddenly, the main character is upset with her husband’s mannerisms and unable to discuss them with him for whatever reason. When the antagonist begins to woo her and tells her about all of the things that he would make sure she enjoys (with wild sex being one of them), does she express to her husband that she wants to do these things, or that she’s interested? Of course not. She tries to get him to ravish her without any explanation, and when he doesn’t know what the fuck is going on and declines because – well, he doesn’t know what the fuck is going on – she sulks and decides to go jogging early in the morning to meet the antagonist.
In fact, considering how the antagonist treats her after getting her to sleep with her, it’s honestly a wonder why she would remain with him – her husband seems like a more viable candidate for any woman to cheat on her husband with than the antagonist does. The logic just seems backwards.
The worst moment, I think, was when the antagonist decided to “persuade” the main character to snort some crack. Well, it was less persuading and more something like this:
“Hey, try some.”
“I don’t know about this.”
“Do you trust me?”
And there you go. Apparently it’s that easy to convince a woman who has consistently been against drugs and excessive alcohol to snort coke. She didn’t put up any sort of an argument, nor did she show any curiosity about the substance beforehand. It was almost like, because she hadn’t done it before, she didn’t know what it was. Or like she’s never had any experience telling anyone no. If you’re against drugs and alcohol, I would imagine that, even if you grew up in the South with a religious mother, there had to have been moments where you’ve had to decline participating in dangerous or undesired activity.
Look, guys. I’ve never snorted coke before, but I know what it is, and I know that I don’t want any. It’s not that hard.
Where is the Relationship, exactly?: The main character, of all things, wants to be a marriage counselor, and graduated with the appropriate degrees that would help her achieve her goals. Somehow, she knows nothing about communicating well in relationships and even less about maintaining one. The way that this movie is presented, you’d think that they’d only gotten married after knowing each other for about a year. Likewise, her standards while with the antagonist disappear, and it gets to the point where she isn’t at all interested in any sort of relationship – just sex and being mistreated. This goes into the point that I’ve stated just earlier about her husband seeming like a better candidate for someone to cheat with than the man that she actually picked.
Everything you can’t do, he can: Now, I’m not going to complain about this being in the movie, because in films about cheating that is a common trope. However, I feel that it was just executed in a less than acceptable way.
So, you’ve got the sweet, meek, sensitive guy who takes things slow; and the fast-paced, confident, knows-what-he-wants-and-will-take-it, rough-and-hard-around-the-edges kind of guy. The main character is married to the former, and is attracted to the antagonist, who is the latter.
This antagonist put on the polite show with her while he was wooing her into having sex with him, which makes sense. But there were scenes that you think the main character would have picked up on, with her intelligence and background. She was upset enough at some jerks calling her rude names while walking down the street with her husband to yell back at them – but not knowledgeable enough to recognize that if the antagonist’s reaction to her running into an old man on a bike is to hem the guy up and almost beat the crap out of him is a sign of detrimental behavior.
And this woman says she’s qualified to be a marriage counselor? Just doesn’t add up. Especially when her husband is actually nice – just not rich.
Furthermore, her husband not ravaging her on the wall of her home when she assaults him, discouraging her from starting a fight with a pack of hoodlums because he can’t take on 8 people at once, telling her that it’s a better idea to wait and build resources to open a practice for herself, and forgetting her birthday are apparently all that’s necessary for her infidelity.
If all of this wasn’t already enough, our main character seems to think that if a man who has only known you for three days and is trying to date you says that he’ll start a practice with you right now if you get a business model up isn’t asking for anything in return.
Likewise, a man that made it clear that he was attracted to you remembered your birthday when your husband didn’t – does that suddenly make him better? Of course he remembered your birthday! You only told him about two days ago and he wants to get into your pants!
Sex is suddenly EVERYTHING: Once the main character had sex with the antagonist for the first time, apparently she just fell in love with him. Contrary to my previous point, she seemed so disgusted with him after he took her home after it happened. A couple days later she was calling him for more sex like a crackhead out of rehab. I understand that sex can be addicting, but the main character seemed more frustrated with her husband’s momentary lack of affection and attention than she did bored of the intimacy, respect, or any of the other good things that he did provide her. There was absolutely no indication in the film that she enjoyed the sex more than she did the man up until: BAM!
“Nobody is better at sex than you.”
and it seemed rather contradictory, especially when she could complain to the antagonist about her mistreatment later. There was no remorse for her decisions, no regret at the sign of mistreatment from the man that she had cheated on her husband with. Like she doesn’t know this guy at all – like, even if she doesn’t love him anymore, like they were never friends or she never cared about him at all (she does, by the way, let him know that she still cares about him later on in the film even if she’s not in love with him anymore).
Again, inconsistency. Just because you enjoy sex with a person doesn’t mean that all over values and morals go out the window. I guess this is pandering to the “superficial Christians” audience, who seem to believe in that sort of thing, but it’s utterly unrealistic.
And, last but not least – the one thing that makes all of this possible:
Extreme Polarization of Values: Everything is “Black and White”. If you’re good, you’re good. If you’re evil, you’re evil. No middle ground ever. From the moment that the main character starts cheating on her husband, not only is she just unfaithful but she turns into a drug user, constant partier and a lot of other things mentioned above. She renounces her religion and stops standing up for herself (one of her more prominent traits in the film). She drops all of her values in favor for the things that the antagonist can give her. She was a completely different person very suddenly, and kept none of the characteristics that made her attractive in the first place.
I get that people change. I do. I’m okay with that and I understand the movie was trying to illustrate that sometimes people turn into those that you don’t recognize. That being said, change doesn’t always have to be so dramatic and illogical, and wrong or incorrect decisions don’t have to always be accompanied by a slew of heavy-handed negatives. There were other ways, I think to show her suffering or at least her descent without seeming so off-the-wall, random and fragmented. At least with the sex angle, the film made it clear that she was both turned on by and interested in the possibility of non-“standard” sexual practices.
And honestly those sexual practices fit into this category as well. Being married and religious doesn’t mean that a person has to be boring and straightforward in bed. Sure, sexual variants are not a thing that are typically addressed in church, and I can understand some of their initial ignorance on this topic (“they” being the main character and her husband), but it doesn’t have to end there. How is it that the “Big City” can change so much about them, all in negative ways, and nothing good comes of those changes at all? This movie’s main point isn’t to say that change is bad – it’s supposed to be about the decisions that people make and where they can lead when the wrong ones are chosen. The main character seems susceptible to all of the terrible things just because she has a few doubts or issues that she’s unhappy with, and not receptive at all to any of the good things; nor does she try to change things herself to make them better. There are no talks with her husband, even though they’ve known each other for 19 years and there’s no indication that they have difficulty expressing things to each other.
I’m just about done with this now. I’ve left out a few things that I thought were minor infractions in exchange for the larger ones that correlate with each other, but I hope that I’ve made it clear why I don’t like the movie. The characters are all trapped by stereotypes to the point where it’s obvious that they’re characters being directed by writing and terrible plot. This isn’t a story – it’s puppetry, and this movie very much seemed like a play adapted into a movie, and not a very good one. I do not relate to it in any way, and while I know that there are some people who can identify with the overall subject matter and some of the situations within, I doubt that anyone can relate to the details within this work. The only thing I felt it truly delivered on was the ending, and the fact that it was – as advertised – a film about a cheating spouse.
It just wasn’t a good movie at all, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to see it.