Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tyler Perry's Good Deeds

Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds    

Tyler Perry’s pioneering, winning formula of moviemaking is an anomaly these days and charmingly old fashioned.  He works entirely independently, free of studio micromanagers, making and reinvesting his own money and supporting his own niche studio.  Perry created a genre of family friendly movies and television shows aimed at African American audiences, based on themes of universal interest and conservative American values and made a killing. 

Tyler Perry’s empire rivals Oprah’s at its height, encompassing a broad network of television and films that are proven box office winners, released on a consistent basis.  He has the Golden Touch – almost everything he’s made has been successful even if his films haven’t been embraced by critics.   Perry caters mostly to a built in audience that has been historically underserved; he writes, directs and stars in his own films and occasionally, he’ll even do it in drag as Madea.

In his self-titled Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, he is Wesley Deeds, CEO of the family’s hard won computer software firm.  He’s a respected businessman engaged to Natalie, a successful businesswoman (Gabrielle Union) while he struggles to keep his unstable brother Walter (Brian White) out of trouble and please his shrewish mother Wilemina (Phylicia Rashad).   Big load for anyone.  Plus a business partner’s stolen his biggest client.

A woman has parked in his private spot and brother Walter gets into a screaming match with her.  Little do they know this woman Lindsey (Thandie Newton) has had one of the worst days of her life.  She and her six year old daughter have been evicted, and have no one to help.   She is about to find out that her wages have been garnished for a tax debt.  And child services may take her child.   Her attitude is rude, brusque and aggressive. 

Later that night, as she toils as an office tower janitor, her daughter sleeping in the supply room, she runs into Wesley and mistakes him for an office worker.   She has a bristling exchange with him.  During another of their late night encounters, she discovers that he owns the company and her attitude changes considerably.  He gives her a corporate apartment, sets up a day care in the office and basically turns himself inside out doing a major good deed for her.  Their relationship isn’t sexual; it’s simply one person trying to help another person.  But his good deeds are misinterpreted by his family and fiancée, of course and things get dramatic fast.

It’s typically Perry in that it’s a soft sell, mildly diverting, mildly funny and heavy on family drama.  It’s nothing new for him or films in general, but it will net him another bucket of gold for the next film.  I appreciate all that Perry does and that he is self-sustaining, that’s no mean feat in the days of Hollywood’s corporate grip on the industry. 

He relies on human stories, and a human scale, there are no car crashes, special effects or extremes of any kind. It’s a formula that works, and even if I think the film moves a bit slowly and it's hard to like Lindsey, Tyler Perry is doing what he does successfully and with grace. 

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