Good Deeds

Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds is the latest effort from writer, director, and actor Tyler Perry.  Tyler Perry gained notoriety and fame in Hollywood because he created a character named Mabel Simmons.  Madea as she prefers to be called is a gun toting religious woman who takes crap from no one.  This character is popular with audiences because of the positive moral messages that come from watching her stories on stage and screen.  Tyler Perry takes the opportunity in Goods Deeds to step out of that role and play a character more closely resembling himself.   This venture to try and do something new is what drew my interest to the film, but its success is too dependent on Perry’s moral message when the story needs to be the films true focus.

Tyler Perry stars as Wesley Deeds.  Wesley is a hard working CEO with the perfect life.  He was groomed by his father to be an excellent business man and taught by his mother to be a gentleman.  Wesley has always been the man other people need to be especially in the eyes of his mother, brother, and girlfriend.  Wesley is predictable right down to the tie he wears in the morning before he goes to work.  One morning Wesley has a difficult run in with a woman named Lindsey Wakefield and her daughter Ariel.  Lindsey’s life is full of problems.  Lindsey was evicted from her home with her belongings left for the homeless to pick through.  Wesley realizes early on in the film that this woman is in distress and offers to help.  Lindsey is incapable of accepting charity throughout most of the films first act.  Of course eventually Wesley and Lindsey start to change each other’s lives in various ways.  Lindsey seems to be the only one capable of noticing the level of stress Wesley constantly puts on himself as a result of running his father’s company and Wesley sees how much one woman’s struggle with living opens his life up to living for himself and doing good for others.

The problem with this film is the same problem the lead of the film has, it’s predictable.  I was shocked by the fact that the opening narration tells you everything you need to know about the film.  There are no surprises and everything happens as you expect it would.  The flaws that Lindsey and Wesley have are not flaws that are uncommon and thus the growth you expect to occur will occur naturally in the story’s progression.  In other words, you know when characters will evolve or change and there is no room for characters to make mistakes or bad choices.  I found I was aching for some variety in how Wesley or Lindsey handled situations in their lives and it was never given to me.  I was bored by this film but only because I saw everything coming.  The fact that this film has a message and a purpose beyond just entertaining its audience is the only thing that keeps it from being ordinary.
In terms of the acting Tyler Perry played a stripped down version of himself which I had no real issue with.  The actress whose performance presented a problem for me was Thandie Newton.  Her performance constantly came off to me as a bitter black woman who had given up on the world because she was hit with horrible circumstances.  I have never come across a character that looked and felt so defeated.  Thandie’s performance of her character felt overplayed to me.  She was selling me too much bitterness and that was a major turn off and significantly decreased the level of sympathy I felt for her character throughout this film’s two hour run time.  Phylicia Rashad has a memorable turn as Wesley’s mother Wilimena.  She isn’t a domineering mother as one might expect.  She really just wants what’s best for her sons.  Wesley’s alcoholic brother Walter is the closest we get to an actual villain in this film.  He wants the position his brother occupies and the conversations between Walter and Wesley are some of the film’s most tense moments.

Good Deeds is not a good film.  It’s overly preachy and predictable but its positive message makes for a tolerable variation in Hollywood’s cycle that constantly churns out uninventive cliché films.

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