A law-abiding middle-aged lady called Grace (a mixed performance from Crystal Fox) starts dating again at the insistence of her best friend Phylicia Rashad and meets the too-good-be-true Shannon, at his photography exhibition. (In the Perryverse men who take sensitive photos of African children and can hold a mature conversation also have to look like LeBron James.) Despite her sensible reservations, they marry and the film shifts gears jarringly as we cut to the bedroom.
After a short-lived period of bliss the hulking Shannon, played by Supergirl’s Mechad Brooks, drops the collegiate act and starts making furtive phone calls to other women. Later, Grace ascertains that he has stolen from the bank where she works and taken out a second mortgage. His poorly and inconsistently written character is content to mock and scorn his new wife until she makes a fateful and violent decision…or does she? The way Perry conceives the pivotal moment in the film gives the impression that he is not a big noir-guy. Logic exits and fantasy/dream motivations and explanations replace sense, leaving the viewer confused amidst the narrative wreckage of the third act.
Bresha Webb is given the unenviable task of playing Grace’s lawyer Jasmine, who has never been to trial before! Sadly she has to endure Tyler Perry alternating from positive reinforcement to complete disinterest as an indulgent and pointless character. Jasmine is the sort of person who other characters think is ‘fierce’ and ‘has fire’ but in actuality, she is emotionally ill-suited to the high-stress of the legal system. Upon being charged for contempt of court for repeatedly calling a witness, despite having rested her case moment earlier, she just shouts louder… before ending up in a cell.
More worryingly, Jasmine seems to believe that Grace’s lack of prior convictions make her situation completely unique and render her completely innocent. Another example of her incompetence and complete lack of suitability for her role is the fact that she states that doesn’t know what to do when visiting a prisoner. Although unlikely, it is plausible that elements of the trial may be a challenge, but to suggest that visiting a prisoner would be daunting is laughably inauthentic.
Tyler Perry has just opened a $250m film studio, the largest in the US and the first owed by an African American, and whilst this is long overdue and highlights the lack of investment from other wealthy stars, it would have been more prudent to invest in hiring some overlooked writers to make sense of this law and order salad. Given that Perry churned out this maiden Netflix effort in a reported five days it is incredible that any of this is cohesive. For that feat, and that alone, he gets one star for ambition and effort.
Available now on Netflix