There's not a lot about Tyler Perry's "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor" that I can say that hasn't been said by everyone else who was either amused or horrified by it. Other than the whole thing had a familiar ring to it. A late Sunday night, St. Louis cable access channel ring to it.
A long time ago when I was a kid growing up in North St. Louis County I watched a moving about black prostitutes that was not a porno. It was a spiritually based film about a woman who'd strayed and through several twists and turns and finally some really low lows found her way to Christ and was redeemed. Tyler Perry started hitting the Jesus Juice heavy and early in "Temptation" with the mother character in the film being a prayer circle-loving spiritual firebrand and having Jurnee Smollett-Bell's character "Judith" tell some catcalling men they needed to go to church and get some Jesus in their life as a retort. So even in knowing all I knew about the film, I naturally settled in for a tale of a woman who falls off the wagon, but is saved by Jesus in the end.
But that's not what happens in this movie.
In the movie about the hooker, finding Jesus lead to prosperity, getting off the streets, getting accepted by her family again, getting love and getting her self-respect back. It was basically saying you can be the lowest of the low and Jesus will walk with you and get you a better hair weave and teeth and get you back in school and away from your brutal pimp. That sounds like a pretty awesome Jesus. Tell me more about this guy.
In "Temptation," after a couple who married too young grows apart, the wife strays, has a tawdry affair (that begins with something that looks a lot like sexual assault), goes through all the seven sins, sometimes at the same time, embarrasses her husband and mother, blasphemies all over the place and appears to snort a lot of cocaine. (SPOILER ALERT: She gets HIV for her troubles.)
At this point, I fully expected the movie to do what the play "Diary of A Mad Black Woman" did -- the play, not the film -- which is where through Christ (and her husband and mother's love) she would be saved and redeemed and in the end, she would be a better wife and her husband would stand by her and take her back once she'd shown real change through salvation.
Jurnee's Judith is just as awful in some respects as the husband from "Diary of A Mad Black Woman" but in the film the director (who wasn't Tyler Perry) or maybe Perry himself had the good sense to say, "Gee, it kind of looks bad for this woman to take back a man who was abusive to her just because he found Jesus. Can't she just help him find Jesus then be all, I love you in the spirit, but this marriage is over?" And I would have accepted that ending with "Temptation" too, if the husband had gotten Judith straightened out, helped her cope with her diagnosis, get back in touch with God, then go, "I'm-a gonna love you from afar," and both characters go on to be victorious in Christ.
THAT'S HOW A REDEMPTION PLAY IS SUPPOSED TO WORK.
But that's not the ending of Temptation, which is where HIV is a punishment and Judith has to walk the earth as an unloved, marked woman, while her husband happily remarries.
Ignore the fact that the acting is kind of all over the place, the dialogue wooden, the sex seeming more like rape, the fact that (yet again) it's some educated light-skinned woman who's the villain in Perry-verse. What do we expect at this point? It's a TP film. As long as Madea didn't show up to pistol whip anybody ...
But maybe Madea DID need to show up because maybe Madea would have shook some sense into Judith, took her in, helped her fill out the necessary medical forms and get her life straight so she wouldn't have to cut off all her hair and walk around like it's the damned Scarlet Letter. I mean, Shug Avery had that "nasty woman's disease" in The Color Purple, but she had a clear redemption arc where her religious father forgave her and took her back. It's like Tyler Perry decided cheating on your husband and snorting coke is a sin too far and she had to be FOREVER PUNISHED which, even as the world's worst non-practicing Christian, I know that's NOT HOW CHRISTIANITY WORKS.
And that's what's disappointing because the movie doesn't make you feel good at the end like a traditional redemption play does. It doesn't remind you that God Saves All. That no matter how far you fall "He" can lift you up. There's no alter call. There's no come to Jesus moment for Judith. She doesn't even get what the bad guy in "Diary of A Mad Black Woman" got.
She gets HIV.
Man, TP. That's cold.
Video H/T Clutch