All these years later, and Tyler Perry is still making “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
“A Fall from Grace” is his first film made for Netflix, and it’s another female wish-fulfillment fantasy, this one with wrapped in a vengeance melodrama.
It has the trademark Perry woman-as-victim, here a disgraced banker (Crystal Fox) in prison for killing her husband. It’s got other sympathetic women — older women often (Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Cicely Tyson), a chaste, slow courtship with a hint of fireworks in it and Perry in a supporting role wearing somewhat outlandish makeup.
The same structural problems of every Perry script hobble it, the same refusal to edit the material into something more compact, with a sense of a story in forward motion about it.
And all the guys? Eye candy, often shirtless.
It’s good to see Perry’s getting full use out of his Tyler Perry Studios. A Southern filmmaker with a brand that he’s extended from theater, to TV and film, he has the makings of a genuine media mogul.
But as a writer-director, Tyler P. is the LAST guy Netflix needs to be giving its usual blank check and final cut to. Like the over indulgent Martin Scorsese with “The Irishman” and Alfonso Cuaron, Perry has earned his position in the business. They made stupidly long movies for Netflix before Perry did.
But Tyler P’s diminishing returns on the big screen tell the bigger story. He needs somebody to bounce ideas off of, somebody to save him from his worst dramatic, casting and editing instincts.
This clumsy, cadaverously-slow tale is about how Grace came to be in prison, the green public defender Jasmine (Webb) sent to get her a plea deal, but hear out her story in endless flashbacks.
And that takes two hours.
Perry’s done a decent job acting in thrillers that other people scripted. Apparently, he didn’t pick up any tricks from reading those screenplays.
None of the performances are affecting, although Rashad brings a little of her get-my-back-up fire to playing the accused woman’s best friend. Perry just barks out orders as the chief of the public defender’s office that sends Jasmine to plead out this unwinnable case.
“If you argue like that in court, you could actually be a LAWYER!”
Mostly, though, it’s just “Coffee! COFFEE! COFFEE!” from him, in that huge beard and wig.
Check out the cut rate “fireflies” effect, Netflix. Perry isn’t giving you what you paid for.
This is like watching the paint dry in the still-new Tyler Perry Studios soundstages.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, sexual content, profanity
Cast: Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb, Mehcad Brooks , Cicely Tyson and Tyler Perry.
Credits: Written and directed by Tyler Perry. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:01