Monday, March 16, 2009

Madea Goes To Jail

To contrast the artistic films that we have been watching in film class, I decided to pick Tyler Perry's most recent film about the craziest elderly black lady that ever roamed God's green earth.
Granted this is nowhere near "Mr. Bennet levels" of film quality, but it is not entirely fair to dismiss this film as something worth raising your nose to. Through previous films, like Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Daddy's Little Girl, it is evident that Perry's greatest attribute as a director, writer, producer, what have you, is his ability to tell the story. He often multi-facets his plot to leave his audience (whatever quality they may be) thinking. This particular story is about a lawyer in Atlanta (the setting of all his films and shows) named Joshua, who is soon to marry a fellow attorney Linda, both of whom are quickly rising in the city's legal institution. All seems well until he finds himself defending a college friend that has since become a prostitute. This bothers Josh not because he is such a naturally nice guy, which the film completely justifies, but because the two were at a point inseparable and it all fell apart one night in college when Josh unknowingly left Candie at a party with his football teammates who then raped her. Josh carries this guilt all these years and fights for her freedom to the point that his fiance actually fluffs up the charges against her in hopes of increasing her jail time. Where does Madea come in all this? She mostly serves as comical relief; the stereotype that Perry has grown comfortable with. She bumps around life from one crime to another, not in hopes of gain, but in hopes of revenge. Every time someone wrongs her, she feels the need to wrong them back a few times (this is done mostly in the form of shooting at and beating the tar out of agitators). The modern Hammurabi, if you will. After destroying a woman's car with a fork lift for just that reason, she is finally sentenced to jail after a life time of dumb luck with judges. Madea and Candie meet in jail and begin helping each other out in the day to day grind. Another character in the film is a prostitute-turned-preacher named Ellen who reverbrates one of the themes of the film. Straight out of the Bible, one forgives others not for their sake, but for their own. Carrying hatred in the heart is no way to go through life. No matter where we have come from or how bad our conditions may be, we have the choice to act in accordance with our morals. I won't spoil the ending, but believe me when I say it isn't much to spoil.
Perry is quite talented in showing the meager life that exists in the city. Prostitution, drug addiction, constant fear of invasion (by any number of forces), arrest, etc. Perry shows that every level of society experiences corruption. The lawyers at Josh's firm cheat and lie, Josh has a dark past, even the company that tries to employ Candie (as part of community service with Ellen's ministry) does not willingly take the battered Candie for a job unless she is willing to perform sexual favors on the employer. He does however offer a light of hope in Josh, Ellen, and even Madea, who is crazy but by and by a good person that does very much of her questionable behavior for the benefit of those around her.
The camera work is virtually nonexistent, only a shoulder high shot of the characters speaking is consistent, the rest of the time it is simply sowing the scene for the sake of showing the scene. The lighting is equally complex. This film offers little for the artistic mind, but Tyler Perry has grown somewhat as a movie maker. He does use symbols such as rain to show when life seems to be at its worst for Candie. The pimp that hunts for Candie drives a Cadillac Escalade while Joshua drives a Chevrolet Tahoe. Physically, these cars are virtually the same, thus suggesting a very thin line between the two extremes of good and evil. That idea is further reinforced by everyone exhibiting some jarring flaw, be it Madea's lively behavior, Linda's fraud, another lawyer's cheating on the LSATs, or even Joshua's college regret concerning Candie. Perry even pulls a Spike Lee by making Linda, the least likable character, a very pale shade of black. The prison to which Madea goes to is incidently more white than black. Coincidence or not, it can be suggested that Perry has some issues with racism (understandably so if you've ever read biographic work concerning him). However, he is no racist as a fellow jailbird (white) that starts out as a royal pain in the neck soon becomes friends with Madea and Candie.
A certain history teacher will have to forgive me about my choice of film, while I do not view this as a memorable film by any stretch of the imagination, it is a work of art nonetheless. There need to be at least twenty Madeas for every Slumdog, Reader, or Revolutionary Road. Discrimination is not my policy and I choose to evaluate every film with any shred of objectivity I may or may not have been blessed with.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Dom, it was a little difficult to read it all in one paragraph though. And I am not a fan of Tyler Perry's work, but I think you covered everything here and wrote very well!