Movie review: Is this Tyler Perry’s “Fall from Grace” ?- Dami Ajayi

Tyler Perry’s latest feature film on Neftlix, “A Fall from Grace”, follows one of his obsessions—the suffering black woman. His other obsession is black suffering at large, for which he has devised a perfect formula, which has helped him churn out a lot of films. Think the Madea series and perhaps his most ambitious work till date, For Coloured Girls.

This “obsession” has helped situate Tyler Perry’s movies within a sub-genre that is referred to as Blaxploitation films, films that centre around the black experience with large dollops of stereotypes. Blaxploitation films began in the 70s with Shaft and Sweet Sweet Badassss and has persisted with films like Jackie Brown, Black Klansmannn and now A Fall from Grace.

“A Fall from Grace is no different from Tyler’s usual fare. Deliriously filmed within five days, it follows the eponymous character, Grace (played by Crystal Fox), a well-heeled, middle-aged, divorced black woman, who sought love and attention, which she found in abundance with a handsome younger man, Shanon (played by Mehcad Brooks) at the urging of her best friend, Sarah (Phylicia Rashad).

A whirlwind romance which Perry exhaustively explores on screen leads to her fairy-tale-styled second marriage. But the proverbial shit hits the fan when Grace realises that falling in love with Shanon was a costly endeavour with a domino effect.

Simply put, it is a fall from her comfortable social standing and, in Perry’s Christian reckoning, a fall from actual grace. But it is not only a descent from social standing that confronts us as the movie also descends from a bumbling love story into a predictable thriller of identity theft, soured marriage, murder and betrayal told by Grace from within the justice system to a young but earnest lawyer, Jasmine (played by Bresha Webb) whose impetus is to save her.

Tyler Perry is wading through familiar waters with nary a hint of ambition here. Reprising his usual roles of writer, director and actor hardly serves the movie. He miserably fails in every one.

The script relies incessantly on flashbacks, stilted narration and awkward dialogues to push the plot towards its predictable end. “A Fall from Grace” is quite painful to watch. Talented actors attempt to inject vigour into a flawed story. Elegant performances is directly proportional to shorter screen time. Hence Cicely Tyson, the legendary nonagenarian, who plays Alice, an elderly woman, delivers a flawless performance. Terry Perry, on the other hand, mangles his supporting actor role as Jasmine’s boss, Rory, repeating the same lines to boot, from opening scene through to the denouement.

If the acting is insufferable, cinematography is non-existent. Shots are unflattering. Love scenes are almost entirely shot in the dark. The camera angles slouch and the thrill of the movie is left entirely in the care of one dimensional characters. Editing is also quite jarring and scenes are repetitive. It takes a bit of discerning to realise that Grace’s narration is unreliable and the riotous way the plot unravels aims for the incredulous.

But this is a winning formula that has ensured huge commercial success for Tyler Perry whose works all but speak to his dis-regard for critical engagement. Tyler Perry is clearly the emperor of shabby low-budget black conscious cinema and he has chosen to do nothing different on “A Fall from Grace” besides adding a jarring fall in the opening scene that doesn’t quite add up neatly at the film’s ending.

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Sarah Ladipo Manyika is Goldsmiths Prize 2020 judge.