Tyler Perry’s Why
Did I Get Married? — the film adaptation of Perry’s stage
play of the same name — opens in theaters today. And for the
first time ever, I plan to actually pay money to see a Tyler Perry film.
Janet Jackson costars in the movie with the tricky little
title. And by “tricky,” I mean that one has to be careful when reading the title out loud and answering
it out loud within earshot of one’s life partner, or it may become the
inspiration for a sequel titled Tyler Perry’s How Did Your
Ass End Up Sleeping on the Couch for a Week?!
Jackson as part of the ensemble cast gives the film version an immediate
crossover (from exclusively black to a more general audience)
appeal and a publicity push.
My interest in the film is
not solely because Jackson is part of the ensemble (that’s a large part
though). The film also costars Jill Scott, who is a favorite poet, songwriter,
singer of mine. Wow. Janet Jackson and Jill Scott in the same film?
That’s a must-see for me. Yes, I know that without a doubt I’d prefer
to listen to them both on an album collaboration together, rather than
acting on screen together in a Tyler Perry film, but still. I must. When
I pay the $50,000 for my movie ticket (that’s what a movie ticket cost
these days, right?) I’m doing it primarily for the sistahs.
The movie tells the story
of four married couples, college friends, who gather annually for a
week-long reunion. But as the synopsis warns, "the
cozy mood is shattered when the group comes face-to-face with one pair’s
infidelity. As secrets are revealed, each couple begins questioning
the validity of their own marriage. Over the course of the weekend,
husbands and wives take a hard look at their lives, wrestling with issues
of commitment, betrayal and forgiveness as they seek a way forward."
Whoa … there’s going to be some drama, y’all. Even the synopsis is long-winded
and detailed and drama-filled. Frankly, the movie seems a tad too melodramatic
for my taste, as are most of Perry’s films. (I’ve watched a couple while
channel-surfing over the years.)
For those who are unaware
of Tyler Perry, he is well known in African-American popular culture.
He’s actually best known for a woman he transforms into for many of
his stage plays (some of which have been made into movies). To some, Mabel "Madea"
Simmons is better
known than Tyler Perry himself, and that might just be why Perry tends
to use his own name in the title of most of his ventures. So six-foot-five-inch Tyler Perry dresses in drag and doles out the comic wisdom of an
elderly Grandmother type — but he has at times been accused of being mildly
homophobic in his joke telling as Madea, all the while of course being
suspected of being gay himself.
He made his name writing
plays and turning those plays into films. But the type of drama that
works on stage does not always translate to the screen, mainly
because the axiom for movie writing is "show don’t tell." The same cannot be said for stage writing; often the plot point "reveals"
come by way of dialogue because there is such physical confinement in
theatre. Perry does not seem to care about the apparent lack of respect shown towards his plays-turned-into-films
by the professional critics. He doesn’t care all the way to the bank,
and I can just picture Madea driving the Brinks truck right up to the
teller’s window for withdrawals and deposits.
I’m also supporting the film
with my paid attendance because it has a predominantly black cast, and
from what I can tell, there is not a gang member, prostitute, pimp or
parolee among the group! Imagine that! But getting back to the largest
motivation for my interest, it’s good to see Janet Jackson back on screen,
rather than merely her malfunctioning breast.
Goodness, one would have
thought that the woman’s breasts caused war, famine, homelessness and
illiteracy! Of course, I would have preferred her return to the screen
in something other than what I am assuming will be a melodrama with
stilted dialogue, but at least she is on screen and not fading into the
sunset. She’s too talented for that. She has grown up in front of our
eyes. Good Times still replays on TV Land, and seeing
little "Penny Gordon" turn 41 confirms that Jackson
was not a flash in the pan, or just a cute little face, or just well
known because she was born into a famous family. I find Jackson to be
an excellent triple-threat entertainer.
There are not many African-American
female superstars at the moment, and in my opinion, Jackson still tops
the list. (Of course, her brother could have shared that honor with
her, having been born an African-American, but somehow he grew up to
be a Caucasian woman!) Oh, I’m only kidding, everyone; calm down! In all
seriousness, in order for Janet Jackson to remain there at the top, she
must make movies, or do TV, and make albums and perform live. Janet
Jackson has lived under the media’s eye and its fickle scrutiny her
entire life, and she has proven to me that her talent has both exceeded
her hype and silenced her detractors.
So here’s hoping that
Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? will once again show
why Jackson is still beloved by many. Aside from Jackson, Scott and
Perry, the film also stars Denise Boutte, Sharon Leal,
Malik Yoba, Tasha Smith, Richard T. Jones, Lamman
Rucker and Michael Jai White. It was written and directed
by Perry and is being released through Lions Gate Films. If you get
a chance to see it, post your thoughts in the comments.