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Dustin Putman

Acrimony  (2018)
½ Star
Directed by Tyler Perry.
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Lyriq Bent, Crystle Stewart, Jazmyn Simon, Ptosha Storey, Ajiona Alexus, Antonio Madison, Danielle Nicole, Nelson Estevez, Kendrick Cross, Jay Hunter, Racquel Bianca John, Bresha Webb, Angelique Valentine, Shavon Kirksey, Jarvis Shaffer, Moses Jones, Terayle Hill, Katie Carpenter, Shamea Morton, Douglas Dickerman, Bon Lanoue.
2018 – 120 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for language, sexual content and some violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, June 29, 2018.
Filled with palpable foreboding and fury and sumptuously moody establishing shots of a rainswept, fog-shrouded city, the theatrical trailer for "Acrimony" is so deceptively enticing it should be studied in film schools on the art of making a turd look like a gleaming diamond. As invitingly polished as the advertising may have looked, the actual film is absent of style, lest said style is meant to emulate the work of a filmmaker whose first experience with a camera was on day one of principal photography. That it is instead the doing of a power player like Tyler Perry is head-scratching; his dramatic work bringing 2010's "For Colored Girls" to life proved he had the ability to create a mature, thoughtful, classy-looking feature, so why does he so frequently helm movies that appear to have been thrown together over a long weekend?

Fancying itself as a "Fatal Attraction"-esque thriller in the classic "...from Hell" subgenre, the film instead plays like a mundane soap opera for the bulk of its two-hour running time. What little elegance there is can almost exclusively be attributed to Taraji P. Henson (2016's "Hidden Figures"), who gives everything she's got to a frustratingly dopey script (also by Perry) undeserving of her talent. Henson plays Melinda, a woman overcome with rage and jealousy when her ex-husband of twenty years, Robert (Lyriq Bent), moves on with his life—a life she believes she was promised. Warned by the court that she will go to prison if she fails to stay away from him, Melinda is ordered to see a therapist to work on her lingering hang-ups and anger-management issues. Queue a 90-minute flashback as she tells the long, sordid story of her rocky relationship with Robert (Ajiona Alexus plays the college-aged Melinda, and Antonio Madison is the young-adult version of Robert).

"Acrimony" is blander than bland from a visual standpoint, so artificial one can recognize most of the exterior shots as dodgy green screen work; in one particularly awkward scene, the actors stiltedly walk in place as if they're starring in a "Birdemic" sequel. Even worse is its irresponsible treatment of Melinda. There is a certain novelty in a film primarily following the appointed antagonist, but attempts to explore her psychology and probable mental illness are whittled down to a single line from an off-screen therapist: "Have you ever heard of borderline personality disorder?" Melinda immediately shuts her down and goes on her way toward a dark destiny entirely of her own making. Meanwhile, the viewer longs for her to come to an epiphany where she learns to favor her own self-worth over a marriage to Robert that rarely, if ever, seems happy. What does she see in him? Nothing, based on what's shown, though the viewer is invited to listen to Melinda's cornball narration about how he knew every curve of her body and how to work it.

"Acrimony" is a study in frustrating episodic storytelling and the revolving stages of one's reaction to where it very slowly goes. First it's mildly intriguing during the present-day prologue, then it's overwrought during Melinda and Robert's college years, then it tries one's patience after the two are married and a fissure forms due to financial woes and feelings of resentment, then it moves into full-on stalker mode as Melinda seeks to sabotage Robert and new fiancée Diana (Crystle Stewart). The yacht-set climax, like much of what has gone before, is inane in so many ways it's amazing the digital camera used to shoot the film didn't pop off the tripod and slink away in embarrassment. The final ten minutes, intending to take place on the open seas, (1) make no logical sense, (2) were blatantly filmed on either a cramped soundstage or in someone's backyard, and (3) inspire uncontrollable laughter right at the moment when the picture should be aiming for suspense and emotional catharsis. By never fully trying to understand Melinda beyond the irrational villainess she becomes, Tyler Perry lets her—and his lead actor—down to an almost irresponsible degree. Ultimately, by the end credits, the only acrimony left is from the bamboozled viewer.
© 2018 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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