The trailer for Tyler Perry's Acrimony smolders. Taraji P. Henson plays Melinda, a scorned wife, and you see her in the trailer as you do in the film: smoking, and smoking mad, on a therapist's couch—a couch she has been ordered to by a judge after harassing her estranged spouse and his new fiance. From the trailer, the film seems dark, full of deceit, vengeance, and, surely, a twist or two that will explain Melinda's rage.
Acrimony, unfortunately, is two hours longer than the trailer, and half as intriguing. While the depths of Melinda's anger are impressive—in her early 20s, she runs her Jeep into her boyfriend's RV when she spies a women's hand pressed against a window—one of the few successes in film is Henson's arched eyebrows, which express her temper as well as any script could. Not that the script doesn't try: "Do you think you have a problem with anger?" her therapist asks from off-screen. "That's like asking if I have a problem with hunger," Melinda replies.
Things start out well enough. After a discomfiting (and repeating) flash onscreen of the word "acrimony" followed by a list of synonyms (as though this were a vocabulary lesson disguised as entertainment), we are given the backstory of Melinda's romance with Robert (Lyriq Bent), a kind and handsome man with a plan to save the world—and get rich—by inventing a self-charging battery. We see them as college kids (when young Robert is played by Antonio Madison and young Melinda by Ajiona Alexus), deeply in love, walking along the Pittsburgh waterfront, and dreaming of plans for the future. They will have a penthouse apartment, a yacht, and at least a couple of kids. Despite the warnings of Melinda's sisters—and the aforementioned Jeep attack—the young couple weds.
My, how things change. Flash forward 18 years, and after spending her youth, and inheritance, supporting her husband's fruitless dreams, Melinda has finally had enough. With her sisters' prodding, she begins to see that her husband has taken advantage of her all along. But has he? Despite Melinda's uncontrollable fury, to the audience—or, at least, to this audience member—it's hard to feel much sympathy for Melinda at all. Eyebrows not withstanding, Robert is a much more likable character than her, one who seems not evil so much as unlucky, and after Melinda kicks him out of the house and his battery finally takes off, Melinda begins to spend her days stalking his new partner online—the universal symbol right now for deranged love. You'd be forgiven for thinking she just needs to get off of Facebook and take a damn walk.
The message behind the movie, if there is one all, seems to be that sometimes women really are crazy. Though she speaks on the therapist's couch about the stereotype of the "angry black woman," there is no redemption for Melinda, nor even a reason for her rage. There are no twists, no turns, nothing to surprise the audience or even to keep us guessing. And while the movie briefly touches on the reality of life in America for black men (Robert is unable to get a job because of a juvenile felony conviction), in the end, Melinda is just a pissed off ex-wife, one whose downfall, in essence, is her fault alone.
Would I recommend this movie? Sure, when it comes out on Netflix and you need a Taraji P. Henson fix. Otherwise, I'd say skip the $15 ticket and stream Empire instead.