The thought is always better than the reality. From an early age, Melinda (Taraji P. Henson) has been known as vengeful and combustible woman who’s completely aware of this fact. One day in college, her hot exterior begins to be melted by Robert (Lyriq Bent), an engineer hoping to strike it big with the invention of an electricity-saving battery. He’s so smooth, so caring, and he makes it impossible for Melinda to not fall for his charm.

Once she does, everything goes down the tubes. Robert’s Lothario side manifests, hurting Melinda time and time again emotionally. And yet, she can’t manage to break away for good. Maybe it’s the feeling that something may finally come good out of Bob’s intellect. But as another transgression is committed by her husband, Melinda can no longer provide the unwavering support she’s given for 18 years. Enter an intense feeling of Acrimony.

The main definition of Nihilism, as defined by Merriam-Webster:

  1. A viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless

Director/writer/producer Tyler Perry resorts to literal on-screen definitions of words consistently in his latest outing of Tyler Perry’s Acrimony. The word he should have used is the aforementioned nihilism. It’s hard to think of a recent wide release that ends up being so morally empty for all characters. Acrimony is trashy…but in that sort of good way.

Where to begin? Acrimony will draw a lot of comparisons to Fatal Attraction. Similarities are there; think an inverted presentation of that famed thriller. But the more apt comparison may be Gone Girl. No, seriously. Certainly not visually (some scenes are extremely obvious with their green screen—why is green screen needed for this?), but sort of tonally. That was a movie that Perry appeared in toward the final act, an act where that story’s considerable dark humor aspect revealed itself in full. The script Perry pens is nowhere near as nuanced, still, there is a level of amusing irony that comes about as Tyler’s screenplay progresses. Funnier than Madea? Absolutely, and not solely in the laughing at the film way.

There’s also a level of film noir that comes about thanks to Acrimony‘s narrative framing and Perry’s gray aesthetic representing the overall tone of the film. Hearing a lead character muse about their lives can be a chore sometimes, but that ain’t the case with Taraji P. Henson serving as the narrator. “Every time a black woman gets angry, she’s a stereotype.” It’s a line recited early on by Henson that Tyler Perry doesn’t run away from, though doesn’t provide much to think otherwise. However, one can tell—or rather,—hear—the fun that Taraji is having with the ridiculousness of it all, and she commits to it all in a way that makes Acrimony more watchable than it should be in its two-hour runtime. This is the tone that January’s ill-fated Henson snooze-fest Proud Mary should have toyed with.

This is to all say that Perry seems to have a level of self-awareness in this movie, but that doesn’t mean he always utilizes it. When he wants to turn up the drama, it rarely works, and rather, appears to be stilted and uber-melodramatic. There’s some heady, intellectual stuff at play Perry seemingly wants to make a statement on; mainly being the trouble of mental health and personal failure in the African-American community that would be analytical and thought-provoking in more capable and subtle hands. What comes of all this is a 10 minute finale that feels like it should have been a part of a completely different movie and is the definitive part in which one is laughing directly at it.

Over the years, Tyler Perry has brought on feelings of acrimony from various moviegoing audiences. However small it may be, it stands as an improvement that Acrimony is probably is best directorial and/or produced effort to date. Take solace in it, for the next Madea adventure is right around the corner.


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