Tyler Perry qualifies as an authentic American success story as far as I'm concerned. Here's a black man who didn't let poverty, physical abuse, homelessness, depression and years of self-sabotage beat him down. He didn't whine or cry about how The White Man Is Holding Me Down. He worked, he sacrificed and he believed that he had a unique voice that had something to say. And sometimes that's all you need to start your empire off with. Gradually he began making a name for himself by writing and producing plays targeted for African-American audiences. He organized his own touring company that performed his plays on the urban theater circuit. Most of his plays and the movies based on them feature the character of Mabel "Madea" Simmons, the aggressive, chain-smokin', pistol packin', ass-kickin', trash-talkin' matriarch of a large Southern family who is played by Tyler Perry himself. Despite her "ahem" shortcomings, Madea is the source of wisdom and the moral compass of her family. Whenever she shows up you know that things are going to be put right. The fun comes in watching how Madea does it. Tyler Perry has written and directed an amazing body of work and his WHY DID I GET MARRIED? follows in his tradition of films that feature African-Americans actors/actresses and are directly targeted for African-Americans. But by no means does that mean that only African-Americans should see this one. If you're married then there's more than enough in this movie you can relate to no matter your ethnic background. And if you're not married see it anyway just for the pleasure of watching a solidly made, well-written and acted movie.
Four married couples who have all been friends since college get together for an annual vacation trip that's held in a different location. The trips are not only for rest and relaxation but to work on their marriages. This year they're spending a week in a Colorado cabin and moderated as always by Patricia (Janet Jackson) a noted relationship therapist/psychologist who has used her friends as the models for the couples in her latest best-selling book; "Why Did I Get Married?" Patricia and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba) play sometimes bewildered referees to the other couples: Mike (Richard T. Jones) takes delight in tearing down Sheila's (Jill Scott) self-esteem, using her weight issues as the knife he cruelly twists in her back every chance he gets. He's such a dog that he even brings his girlfriend Trina (Denise Boutte) on the Colorado retreat. This doesn't set very well with Angela (Tasha Smith) a successful beautician who between swigs from the flask of booze in her purse reminds her husband Marcus (Michael Jai White) that he's not a success at much of anything as far as she's concerned. Diane (Sharon Leal) has just been made a partner at her law firm which interferes with the desires of her pediatrician husband Terry (Tyler Perry) to have another child. On the surface these people are all happy, successful, rich and have lives that any of us would envy. However, during the week, many ugly secrets are revealed, confidences are betrayed and decisions are made. Decisions that change the lives of these people in surprising, emotional and very humorous ways.
There's a lot I liked about WHY DID I GET MARRIED? and it starts with the fact that I like seeing a movie where blacks (or African-Americans for you PC folk) are portrayed as just being people. There's a level of black society in this movie that is shown and explored in this film that rarely gets seen and I really believe that most people don't even believe exists. But it does. There are black people who live this way. Iâ€™ve seen them. And they do deal with the issues of finance, sexual responsibility, morality and plain ol' decency that are raised in this movie in an everyday manner. It's a good movie just in that regard. It's an extremely well made production. The Colorado locations are gorgeous and there's a scene where Sheila is taken to the top of a mountain by the town Sheriff (Lamman Rucker) that is totally awesome. The sets are beautiful and the costume design is breathtaking.
So what's wrong with WHY DID I GET MARRIED? you may ask? Well, Janet Jackson is the weak link as far as acting is concerned. She's got a big moment where she's supposed to come to emotional grips with a dark secret but she drops the ball. In fact, the actor in the scene with her, Malik Yoba does his best to give her all he has so that she can come back with something but she just isn't up to the job. In contrast, Jill Scott is totally amazing. She has a wonderful character arc in this movie that any actress would kill for and she makes it work. Maybe it's because I think Jill Scott is mad smokin' hot anyway. I admit my prejudice. But I still think she provides the movie with its most heartfelt performance. And Tyler Perry gives her a whole lot of amazing close-ups where her soulful smile just fills the screen with pure joy. Malik Yoba surprised me in this one since I've never been impressed by him as an actor. But he does good work in this movie. But he's not as good as Tasha Smith who gets 90% of the good lines in this one and quite frankly shamelessly steals most of the scenes she's in. She's just that good. Just about every scene she was in she appears to have this attitude:"if you're not gonna take it, I will" and so she does. But she does it in such a way that you can't help but like her. She provides the movie with a lot of humorous common sense and halfway through the movie I was most rooting for Angela and Marcus to stay together just because I liked Angela so much. Tyler Perry also amazed me because I'm so used to seeing him in movies where he wears a dress. It was a refreshing difference for me to see him playing such a remarkable dramatic role that was unlike anything I'm used to seeing him in.
So should you see WHY DID I GET MARRIED? Sure you should. It's a movie about married people trying to understand why they got married in the first place and more importantly why they should stay married. Anybody that's married should be able to relate to that subject matter no matter if you're black, white or Eskimo. If you're a movie fan who wants to see a good movie with a great cast and a solid story, then you should go see it. And by all means, if you just want to have to have a good time at the movies and have some laughs, maybe shed a few happy tears and get a look inside the lives of some interesting and fascinating people then most definitely check out Tyler Perry's WHY DID I GET MARRIED?