Tyler Perry Gets Serious

tyler_perry.jpgTyler Perry started out writing about his abuse as a child, so he's had a serious side from the start. It just got overlooked in the wake of a series of comic movies he wrote (and often directed and produced as well) and starred in the cross-dressed role of Mabel "Madea" Simmons, the matriarch of an African-American family. His Madea movies have been wildly popular, despite a lack of attention or respect from most of the critical establishment.

His newest film, Why Did I Get Married? (Lionsgate, PG-13), which was the #1 release in its opening week, again finds him writing, directing, producing, and starring. This time, though, not only does Perry play a male role, he has a somewhat more serious tone, while still providing laughs.The movie, shot beautifully by Toyomichi Kurita, is a wonderful ensemble piece, a kind of Soul Food meets The Big Chill. It follows four upper-middle-class black married couples, friends from their college years, as they take a trip to the wintry Colorado mountains where they plan to vacation and do some sorely needed soul-searching in a lovely chalet managed by Troy (Lamman Ruckmer), a young, hunky local sheriff.

Though highly accomplished and successful professionally, each of the couples arrives at the resort with trials, tribulations and harbored secrets, and from the moment the film begins, the drama starts to unfold. Terry (Tyler Perry), a pediatrician, and Dianne (Sharon Leal), a preoccupied attorney who has just made partner and is reluctant to have more children, are in their car on the way to the chalet, arguing over Dianne's chronic use of her cell phone and inability to spend time with her husband. Pat (Janet Jackson), a best-selling author and psychiatrist, and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba), an award-winning architect, are grieving over the loss of their young son who was killed in a car accident, and Angela, a beauty shop owner (brashly played by Tasha Smith), and her former professional football playing, pussy-whipped husband Marcus (Michael Jai White) are hosting an assortment of resentments, including infidelity, his unemployment, and her drinking problem. Perhaps the most poignant scenario, however, plays out between Sheila (singer Jill Scott wearing a fat suit), a spiritual, beaten-down, overweight woman with low self-esteem, and Mike (Richard T. Jones), her perpetually demeaning, verbally abusive and philandering husband, who has the audacity to bring his mistress, Trina (Denise Boutte) along for the ride.

Why Did I Get Married? has built-in appeal for women, given its depiction of female bonding (and male bonding, too, for that matter) and the understanding that, for the most part, conflicts can and will be addressed and resolved rather than glossed over or ignored. Another attractive aspect of the film is the realistic and reasonable manner in which the African-American characters are portrayed--here one will not find the usual derogatory black stereotypes that continue to plague cinematic ventures to this day, keeping black artistic and cultural evolution at a "three steps ahead, two steps back" pace.

Tyler Perry may not have created a masterpiece, but he has made a marvelously entertaining and meaningful picture about a group of people -- real, flawed, and human -- attempting to work out their issues together as best they know how. - Alison McParlin Davis-Murphy alison_davis.jpg

Ms. Davis-Murphy was born in NYC, grew up in Greenwich Village, graduated from Barnard College, Musician's Institute in LA, and in 2001 received her Master's degree in Psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute in LA. An avid photographer, guitarist, and pianist, she currently lives in California with her husband and six cats, and is working on her semi-autobiography titled The Naked Ballerina: Diary of a Professional Tease.