**This review contains revealing details from the movie “Temptation”. If you have not seen it, reading this post will feel a lot like when you go see something with a friend who’s already seen it and they keep telling you to “watch this!” Therefore, continue at your own risk.
There are a lot of things to hate about this movie and Tyler Perry’s now infamous creative style in general. The preachy church-people-are-good-everyone-else-is-a-demon rhetoric. The fact that I can pretty much rely on a “sexy” guy taking his shirt off at least once (whether it’s for our enjoyment or his, well that’s still up for debate). And the awkwardness of his continual overuse of close-up shots. Yet somehow, the trailers drew me in (mind you, I’ve been boycotting Tyler Perry films for the last 3 years). The thought of Jurnee Smollet-Bell caught in a love triangle seemed wickedly out of character for Perry. But it turns out the exact opposite is true. What I find most disturbing this time around with “Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” is how unsexy he makes a movie about sex. And how eagerly the black community accepts this depiction.
The movie starts out predictably though promisingly with a marriage counselor telling what sounds like a cautionary tale to a pre-adulterous wife. Then we’re swept into the endearing young Love of high school sweet hearts Judith and Brice (Jurnee Smollet-Bell and Lance Gross). But as the reality of delayed dreams and marital malcontent sink in, so do her spirits. Smollet-Bell plays a convincing awkward and “forgettable” 2o-something who knows very little about herself or her body–let alone what’s needed to keep a marriage together. So things quickly heat up when tech-savvy pseudo-playboy/knight in shining armor, Harley (Robbie Jones), capitalizes mostly on Judith’s sexual inexperience. Throw in some line from Harley about people “having sex like animals” (I was fanning myself), a classic sexual-tension filled elevator scene, an unwittingly neglectful husband, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a titillating affair!
Only, that is of course until Perry throws us an alarming curve ball. Judith and Harley end up alone on Harley’s private plane–a business trip serving as the perfect opportunity for him to make his move on a married woman. But Judith persistently pushes his advances away. She clearly says “no”. She clearly says “stop”. Harley forces himself on her a bit harder, however. So much so that Judith actually has to fight him off. To which Harley aggressively grips her up and sternly replies “Stop! Now you can say you resisted”. And then proceeds to have sex with her without her consent. I’m sorry, maybe I am crazy, but that is called rape where I’m from. And suddenly the tide’s low again if you know what I mean. There’s nothing sexy, steamy, or arousing about rape. Judith seems to agree with me and goes home crying and screaming at Harley to never call her again. Those are not the actions of a woman who willingly steps out on her husband to fulfill a sexual longing not met at home.
The movie never treats it like a rape though and soon Judith’s under Harley’s spell. It is not completely uncommon for a rape victim to fall in Love with her rapist. So I suppose this wasn’t completely far-fetched. However, Harley begins exhibiting even more abusive behaviors. He introduces her to hard drugs, separates her from the people who Love her, and whoops her ass. As if that wasn’t enough to punish the philandering harlot, we learn at the end of the movie that Harley gives Judith HIV. BUT Perry never portrays Judith as a victim. Even though Melinda (Brandy Norwood), Harley’s ex-girlfriend, plays the I’ve-had-a-hard-life-so-now-I-don’t-trust-anyone victim role so well Melinda’s boss mistakes her for a lesbian. Wait, what? So the girl who willingly got involved with Harley in college is a victim and we should feel sorry for her but the married woman who gets raped by him is a whore? So what’s the moral of the story here ladies? If you’re stupid enough to catch the attention of another man besides your lazy husband, Jesus will hate you, you will get raped, contract HIV, and die. Oh wait, no my bad. Melinda wasn’t a victim either. She deserved HIV because she didn’t protect herself when she knew Harley cheated on her. That’s right, I forgot. What was I thinking?
What started out as a seductive fantasy soon turned into a right-wing conservative sexual education lesson in a hick town with a ban on contraceptives. And I’m ashamed to admit this but most of the people in the theater, my people, seemed to like it. Maybe they were jut taking the film at face-value. That’s cool I guess. But when you’ve got the power to speak and a good portion of your community listens, you have a responsibility to watch what you say. I mean does Perry have any positive feelings about sex? From the messages in this film, it certainly doesn’t seem so. Good thing not all of us are so easily duped by a well-placed hallelujah. Uh uh. Try again Mr. Perry. Or better yet, do us all a favor, and don’t. Ever. Again.