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temptation : confessions of a marriage counsellor

This Tyler Perry directed temptation, which recalls liaisons dangereuses or fatal attraction, is a serious film. because it is both a dangerous liaison and fatal: a dangerous liasion with playboy, which proved fatal for Judith [jurnee smollet-bell].
Judith is a college educated woman, who is ambitious and whose dream is to become a marriage counsellor. she is married to a pharmacist, brice [lance gross], but becomes tempted by a handsome billionaire Harley [robbie jones], which leads to betrayal, recklessness and forever alters her life course.

Tyler Perry’s “madea” films are not serious like temptation is, but rather laugh-inducing. the madeas are comedies, which make you laugh hard, but with a serious note which I see recurring: Tyler Perry’s a madea Christmas, madea’s witness protection plan, Tyler Perry’s big happy family. the recurring theme is children’s disrespect and behavior towards parents and elders or others. this is a serious note because what the film is showing in a comic form is children’s behavior, especially teenagers’ whose harsh, disrespectful and condescending tone of speaking to their parents, and sometimes complete lack of care towards parents has become a real problem. i daresay that madea is as shocked as i am to hear and be confronted with such disrespect onscreen and in real life.

in temptation, there is also a brief scene of disrespect from judith towards her mother, but it’s the disrespect among adults which is prominent, the disrespect perhaps left checked from undisciplined children we encounter in perry’s madeas. the disrespect in temptation is seen in ava [kim kardashian] towards pre adulterous judith. ava never tires of disrespecting judith’s choice of professional attire and can always be heard insulting judith’s clothes as ‘simple’. judith’s clothes are not flashy enough for the establishment they both work for, which finds mates for rich men and women. ava tells judith that her clothes give people a message and judith retorts right back: ” so do yours!” ava is wearing a revealing dress, like a body glove. ava also disrespects judith’s education; ava doesn’t care that judith has a degree which qualifies her for the job, but she wants judith to ‘dress’ what judith considers not necessary to doing her job. then there’s harley – the millionaire- who also disrespects judith’s love and bond to her husband, and mother, and breaks her down in the end. disrespect wins out among adults in this perry film, as opposed to the ‘madea’ films.

temptation explores desire, sexually and otherwise, but sends up a red flag, and asks us to consider the consequences of stepping out of relationships, which we’ve got used to and which have become secure, predictable and ‘brotherly’ as judith says. a passion which they desire to be constant, never transcending to something higher, or more than the flesh. the kamasutra teaches that the highest passion come from having transcended physicality and attaining that union of perfect symbiosis when you’re one with the other.

aside from desire, the film has a strong message about honesty. what is admirable in temptation is brice’s steadfast honesty. nothing is fake about him or his world, which makes it easy to forgive him when he forgets judith’s birthdays twice. judith gets bored perhaps by brice’s devotion towards her, which can become mundane for real-life couples, who are tempted to move over to greener pastures, but without thinking fully what the flip side can be. so judith sets about living a double life, one with christian-believing, hardworking, do-gooder brice, and the other, with non-beleiving, dishonest, philandering, money squandering, promise making, jet setting, and jet owning harley. harley uses his jet to seduce judith, hungry for excitement, passion and novelty. but along with this obssessive passion comes snorting, drinking, sharing harvey with other women and the biggie…AIDS, the scarlet letter which she must bear for the rest of her life.

another character is melinda [brandy norwood] who is as honest as brice, and with whom he works, and is not ready to jump into bed with a vulnerable brice when he finds out his wife’s been cheating. she was once harley’s prey and is trying to forget that life, because she, like Judith, got much more than sadness, deception and AIDS.

honesty ends up being the best policy, a message much-needed in hollywood and the real world, where tell-all reality-folks, dishonest and philandering people lurk and seem to thrive, especially to those unassuming folks who only see what their lacks see and need. Nick Schager from Time Out New York calls Tyler Perry’s film insane, an inane Old Testament-style morality tale. morality tale is rather strong and what exactly does this critic mean by morality tale? a morality tale implies a struggle between good and evil and something offering a moral lesson. there is a struggle in the film and judith is struggling before she gives in to harley. struggle, like other things, is relative to what one considers good and evil. it also depends on who’s looking and considering. carnal passion may be good, and what we seek, but it is only a temporary state, and that’s what keeps harley going to each woman to whom he leaves his deadly gift. judith trades in her secure, good mate for a devil in red[car]. the moral lesson is that honesty is the best policy. because it simply is.
other top critics gave the film rotten tomatoes, too:

Zachary Wigon/ Village Voice: Perry has some worthwhile filmic models-Temptation gestures at Woody Allen in its setup, and Douglas Sirk in its melodrama-but he isn’t even in the same star cluster as those greats.

Jen Chaney/ Washington Post: Look, we know what’s going to happen. The movie’s called Temptation, okay? Yet we still have to sit through more than an hour of flirty glances and repetitive conversations between Judith and Harley until anything vaguely adulterous occurs.

Scott Foundas/ Variety: A ludicrous marital drama-cum-morality play from contemporary black cinema’s most prolific multi hyphenate.

Nick Schager / Time Out New York : Tyler Perry’s insane, inane Old Testament-style morality tale.

Mark Olsen / Los Angeles Times: Perry’s ongoing disinterest in improving as a filmmaker is now seemingly part of his unshakable belief in himself, his insistence on doing his thing his way.

Alonso Duralde /The Wrap: And really, who better to shill for the institution of marriage than 43-year-old bachelor Perry, who uses homosexuality as a punch line (or symbol of evil decadence) and HIV as a cheap plot gimmick?

Chris Nashawaty/ Entertainment Weekly: A few wild, third-act twists give Perry’s middling melodrama some soap-opera kick. But all the finger-wagging sure does get tiring after a while.

Andy Webster/ New York Times: Limp pacing and countless shots of Washington’s skyline plague the narrative.

Peter Sobczynski/ Chicago Sun-Times: Tyler Perry’s Temptation is an awful, awful film and while it is easy to mock and dismiss, it is also kind of a shame to behold.

after reading these critiques, i tried to see through these critics’ eyes. is it the all black cast that blinds critics from seeing what i saw, i.e. the message? fatal attraction in 1987 explores the same theme, but was nominated for 6 oscars, 7 wins and 14 nominations. dangerous liaisons in 1988 won 3 oscars, had 17 wins and 18 nominations. damage in 1992 was an oscar nominee for best actress in a supporting role with louis malle at the helm. so, was it Dangerous liaisons star-studded cast or its story of aristocratic life which seduced the critics in dangerous liaisons? was fatal attraction lauded for its all white cast of famous stars, too? if you take away the stars [and directors] from all of these films, you get desire, plain ole, raw and unthought of desire, just like in temptation!

what rings through in all four of these films on desire is that all that glitters is not gold.


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