Actor-director-mogul Tyler Perry didn’t come to preside over a vast media empire by paying much heed to the tastes of critics. His 10 feature-film releases to date – churned out over an eight-year span – have drawn mostly jeers from reviewers with his Madea comedies starring Perry in drag as a tough-talking southern matriarch singled out for special scorn. His latest effort the romantic drama Good Deeds isn’t likely to change many minds but it’s not for lack of effort from co-star Thandie Newton whose performance a struggling single mother stands out amidst the film’s otherwise crudely wrought melodrama.
Trading his Madea getup for the less-familiar guise of a leading man Perry stars as Wesley Deeds the scion of a wealthy family and whose lofty expectations have begun to wear on him. Beneath his sheen of polished affluence exists a man who draws little satisfaction from running Deeds Inc. the software giant his father built and who tires of shouldering the demands of his overbearing mother (Phylicia Rashad) the burden of his bellicose and oft-intoxicated bother (Brian White) and the monotony of his loveless engagement to his similarly well-bred fiancé Natalie (Gabrielle Union).
Trapped in a stultifying routine seemingly mapped out for him at birth Wesley longs to escape his gilded prison and trek across Africa on a Harley digging wells with his college buddies. Seriously that’s his dream: digging wells on a Harley.
Situated firmly on the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum is Lindsey (Newton). Left alone to provide for her daughter after the death of her soldier husband in Iraq she has little time for fanciful visions of Harley-riding and well-digging. She’s too busy trying in vain to make ends meet as a janitor at … you guessed it: Deeds Inc. Despite her lowly status Lindsey clings fiercely to her independence which places her in stark contrast to Wesley.
Fate all but demands that Wesley and Lindsey make a match but not before their respective plights are established – and re-established – over a prolonged and laborious set-up that drowns in tedious exposition. (The majority of the dialogue in Good Deeds is devoted to affirming the obvious.) The desperate nature of Lindsey’s situation in particular is driven home with wearisome repetition in scene after scene depicting her various indignities suffered at the hands of the System. Newton an actress of impressive range and dexterity brings dignity and pathos to a role that probably asks too much of her.
A more efficient filmmaker might have trimmed a half-hour from Good Deeds’ first half without compromising its story one iota but then again that would only hasten the descent into soap-opera hysterics that marks the film’s second half.
The potential exists in Good Deeds for a thoughtful examination of class divisions within the African-American community – a topic that Perry who rose from poverty to become Hollywood’s highest-paid entertainer is uniquely equipped to explore – but what we get instead is an overwrought hybrid of aristocratic melodrama and How Wesley Got His Groove Back.
An artless aesthetic and narrative inconsistencies attest to the hastiness of the film’s assembly. In one scene Natalie’s flamboyantly effeminate male friend (played inexplicably by comedian Jamie Kennedy) complains that she’s never even mentioned her fiancé let alone introduced them. Yet when he encounters Wesley in quite literally the next scene they appear as if longtime acquaintances. It’s a problem that could have been easily fixed by a quick re-shoot or two but I suspect Perry was already too preoccupied with work on The Marriage Counselor – arriving in theaters less than six months from now – to bother with them if he worried about the issue at all. And if he doesn’t care then why should we?
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The 34th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards were deep in the land of Dixie --Dixie Chicks, that is.
The Dixie Chicks took home four awards including the top prize, Entertainer of the Year, at the 34th annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards show on Wednesday night, October 4th. In addition, they won best vocal group for the third straight year, and their newest release, "Fly", ended up winning the award for best album. The Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Siedel, have now scored nine CMA wins since their debut blockbuster album, "Wide Open Spaces", became the biggest-selling record ever by a country group.
The Chicks weren’t the only big winners of the night, though. The super couple of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill both won big, with McGraw being crowned Male Vocalist of the Year and Hill winning Female Vocalist of the Year. Lee Ann Womack and the group Sons of the Desert shared the award for Single of the Year, with their song, "I Hope You Dance," which also helped its writers, Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers, win the award for Song of the Year. Montgomery Gentry won for Vocal Duo of the Year.
Other big wins went to the titanic team-up of George Strait and Alan Jackson, as their duet, "Murder on Music Row," a tune that slams the country music industry for its pop-oriented productions, was named the Vocal Event of the Year. Brad Paisley, a new face on the scene, won the Horizon Award for his debut album. Finally, Hargus Pig Robbins was named Musician of the Year. Congratulations to all of the winners!