Netflix is usually the place where the bored and relaxed go to indulge in their usual comforts. A season of a TV show you liked five years ago here, a movie starring your favorite actor there. You don’t necessarily see people leave their typical likes and dislikes.
Why not use Netflix to try and discover new movies and shows that you’d never find in your “Because you watched…” folders and take a look at some of the truly weird stuff the medium has to offer? That’s what AP Party contributors Steve Lepore and Samantha Murray thought. In “We Netflixed This,” they’ll examine some of the various oddities (and possible secretly great films) available to us, thanks to Netflix’s ability to watch everything forever.
The Film: Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. Yep, we’re doing a Tyler Perry movie. We really wanted to give it a shot, and this movie has both Kim Kardashian and Brandy in it. If you don’t know why that’s important, Google is your friend.
The movie has an awful 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though not even enough cared to give it a consensus rating. It’s the tale of a marriage counselor named Judith who flashes back to the days when she was young and in a troubled marriage with a sexy man, and eventually put into TEMPTATION with an equally sexy man who is apparently the new Mark Zuckerberg for some vague thing that he created and has less to do other than hit on her and take her to New Orleans for business trips.
[UPCOMING SPOILER ALERT, GO WATCH THE MOVIE WHICH IS WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO WITH US!]
She cheats on him. In a side plot, Brandy and Judith’s sexy husband Brice just kind of chill out and an old lady makes fun of her for looking like a lesbian or something. Anyway, we find out that Brandy got HIV from the sexy man Judith cheated on Brice with, and now she has HIV, because that was THEIR FAULT for sleeping with a BAD MAN, according to Tyler Perry.
According to Judith’s mother, all of these people need Jesus. Proceed.
We… did not really gain a higher esteem for Tyler Perry by watching this, but stick with us.
Cast: Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams (billed after Kim Kardashian!), Robbie Jones, Brandy, Renee Taylor and Ella Joyce.
Netflix Rating: Barely above two stars.
Steve Lepore: You and I are the antithesis of the Tyler Perry audience, I think. Have you ever seen a Tyler Perry film, and if not, why?
Samantha Murray: I have never seen a Tyler Perry movie because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want me to.
Lepore: There does really seem to be a “preaching to the choir” aspect to his movies. Though really, how would we know, since I’m just basing this question on reviews and Twitter hate?
Murray: I feel like there’s definitely an aspect of that right from the start, because everything is billed as “Tyler Perry’s…” something, as if we’re supposed to just KNOW who that is. And I remember when I was younger, I would see those commercials and wonder what I was missing that I’d never even heard of this person, like he was a Scorsese or Spielberg and it was some insider thing that I was on the outside of. Now it’s actually a helpful indicator that said movie is probably not for me, so don’t worry about it.
Most of those were “Madea” movies anyway. I’m a notorious disliker of really broad comedy and men-in-drag schticks anyway, so I was pretty content to write them off.
Lepore: Right. I do like some slapstick, but I feel like we’ve kind of covered the limits of “men-in-drag” humor over the past half-century and Tyler Perry isn’t adding much new. So, we’re about to watch a movie that features both Brandy and Kim Kardashian. Just how elated did you feel when you realized that?
Murray: Preeeeeetty happy.
Lepore: This is one thing that I think Tyler Perry should put a flag in the earth on. He’s a peacemaker, bringing Kim Kardashian and Brandy together in the same film. (Because there’s no way they share a scene, RIGHT?)
Murray: I have absolutely no way of knowing this, because I haven’t even seen a commercial for this movie in like two years. All I know is that there’s a rich guy with a jet and at some point a window is going to shatter. Presumably Ray-J is behind that.
Lepore: Ray-J is behind everything.
Murray: Kris Jenner is behind everything, Ray-J is a trickster figure through which she acts.
Lepore: This movie has barely over two stars on Netflix. Are there THAT many people taking a chance on Tyler Perry movies and getting burned? Even Rapture-Palooza had like four stars.
Murray: Two options: Either a lot of people watch Tyler Perry movies — you’re the numbers guy, you figure that out — or a small number of people watch but are really moved to rank.
Like, I hated Rapture-Palooza, but I didn’t… actually score it. I just complained about it on the internet. Am I contributing to the breakdown of the system? Is this why communism doesn’t work in practice?
Lepore: We are The New System.
Lepore: Okay, so to start us off… Kim Kardashian is inarguably the best part of this film?
Basically, the entire office is The Devil Wears Prada-lite, and she plays the Emily Blunt role. And it’s the role she was born to play, basically. She just stands around fashionably and says awesomely bitchy things. Actually, scratch the second basically from that description. It’s not that basic.
We agreed earlier that the movie would be improved by the presence of Scott Disick, but honestly, I think the movie would be better with a full Kardashian overhaul. There’s no way Kourtney would have stood for any of this shit and can you imagine what Kanye would have to say about this new Zuckerberg fellow?
Lepore: Zuckerberg is far too small potatoes for Yeezy. Kris Jenner as Judith’s crazy religious mom would be awesome. And Rob could play… uh…
Murray: Non-lesbian pharmacy owner? VANESSA WILLIAMS. Rob plays Vanessa Williams’s role.
Lepore: Rob can totally pull of a terrible French accent.
Murray: Or wait, is Kanye Vanessa Williams? Or WAIT, is Bruce Jenner Vanessa Williams?
Lepore: We Are All Vanessa Williams.
Murray: Maybe Rob is old Judith, who had to learn their lesson the hard way.
Lepore: I don’t think Rob Kardashian is capable of learning.
Murray: Okay, I think I’m done here, because I’m not going to get the proper credit when a cottage industry pops up of people replacing movie characters with Kardashians and I’m going to be mad. Next subject.
Lepore: I feel like you’re giving America and me too little credit.
Murray: Sometimes you’re the Zuckerberg, sometimes you’re the Winklevoss twins.
Lepore: Okay, so I think both of the movies we’ve written about so far we’ve kind of dipped our toes into the discussion of the gender politics in them, but it’s kind of adult swim when you’re dealing with this movie. The very clear message of it is that Judith is punished for cheating on her husband and having sex with another man (one of only two she’s ever slept with) with HIV.
My question is… what the hell?
Murray: What was definitely striking about this movie is how the women were totally accepting of the “fact” that contracting HIV was their fault. Brandy’s character, who had previously dated sexy Zuckerberg, actually says something like “I knew that he was sleeping around and I chose to stay with him, I accept my part in this.” Your PART? WHAT? Contracting HIV from your abusive boyfriend is not a team sport or a group project. This is not a question of everyone taking accountability.
As for Judith, that was just an outrageously heavy-handed morality play.
But I think that what bothers me most about Tyler Perry using HIV as cosmic justice in his movies is that his audience is predominantly African American. I did a quick CDC googling here so I’m not completely talking out of my ass, but not only are African Americans the ethnic group most affected by HIV in America, the rate of new infection in African Americans is eight times that of whites based on population size. Writing a work that engages directly with this community that basically says “Yep, bad people get HIV, don’t be sluts” is just… very irresponsible.
Lepore: That’s gross, and made even more so by a 23-year-old woman with Google being able to put up a coherent counterpoint to easily shame a grown billionaire in about 10 seconds.
The movie has nothing new to say about married life, nothing new to say about romance, nothing new to say about lust, nothing new to say about HIV. This movie has nothing to say. It just all kind of happened and when all else failed, blamed the women.
Murray: There was a really sad part where Bland Husband Figure goes to a club where Judith and Sexy Zuckerberg are and she’s like… clearly strung out and he keeps telling her that if she’ll just come home, he’ll forget about the whole thing. Once he finds out that she could have HIV, that deal is off the table.
I’m not saying that that was unreasonable on the part of the husband, because infidelity is hard to get over even when the straying partner isn’t bringing a life-threatening disease back to the table. But it was depressing because it was set up in such a stark way that clearly painted her as damaged goods. He was willing to take her back before, but not if she’s not going to come back in mint condition.
I think one thing that was interesting about the movie is that everyone just seems to regard infidelity as part of the life cycle. They mention a couple of times that it’s normal for people not to be unhappy at all in relationships until they meet someone new that shows them a different way of looking at things. So essentially, we are all content caterpillars that will eventually be cocooned by a new and interesting person and emerge as adulterous butterflies with a new world view.
So my question is: Are you getting married five times or never getting married ever?
Lepore: Apparently it doesn’t matter either way, because it’s just going to end in cheating, divorce, and probably HIV. And maybe faking my husband’s death, which is totally a thing that happens in this movie.
Judith’s mom apparently told Judith her father was dead after she left him, and not only did Judith apparently believe this for a long time, but once she found out, she did not bother to even bring it up to her mother until her mother started pissing her off. You know, like it was just a “Not Dead Dad” chip waiting to be played in a weird game of “No, You Ruined My Life!” poker.
Murray: We would definitely be remiss if we didn’t talk about the brand of Weird Christianity happening in this movie.
Judith, despite wanting to be a marriage counselor, is adamant that sexual chemistry has nothing to do with anything at the beginning of the movie and she won’t even put questions about sexual preference on the surveys that she makes for the fancy eHarmony she works for because she doesn’t believe in premarital sex.
Judith’s mother fakes her father’s death after a conversion and we don’t know any more than that because they seriously don’t talk about it in depth or ever bring it up again. When Judith leaves her husband for Evil! Sexy Zuckerberg, her mother brings a bunch of women from the church to have a prayer group that also kind of seems like an exorcism for her.
Like, what is even happening here? Everyone in this movie needs Jesus, even more than they all tell each other they need Jesus.
Lepore: I think the only reasonable explanation for all this is that Tyler Perry is in the founding stages of his own religion, set up more or less with the rules of his own film universe.
Murray: Tyler Perry presents “Tyler Perry’s Religion” starring Tyler Perry. A good theory.
Lepore: There are seances for women who aren’t cooking for their husbands, two sexy men to tempt every woman, and you get HIV if you have sex with both of them. It’s a pretty cut-and-dry religion.
Murray: Even if you don’t want to have sex with the men, you do it anyway and you get HIV. We definitely need to emphasize that Judith really did not want to have the affair.
Temptation makes for a sexy title, but I think “Curiosity and then oh, shit!” would probably be a more accurate one. Judith was intrigued by Zuckerberg, but she was always very quick to remind him that she was married. He was the one that really pushed her. In their first “intimate” scene, she is literally saying “No. No. Stop.” and he ignores her. He finally says “You can say that you resisted” or something disgusting like that and then kisses her anyway.
Lepore: That kind of distills this movie’s ethos toward gender politics. That and two other scenes that we have to talk about, even though, if you’re still reading this, you’re insane.
Murray: Or have a passionate interest in gender and race relations in America! Good for you!
Lepore: Scene 1: Early in the movie, two men are seen shouting obscene things (we never really hear what they say, they’re just vaguely menacing) and Bland Sexy Husband basically forces her to ignore them and says “Why are you letting them embarrass us?”
Scene 2: A white guy riding on his bicycle bumps into Judith by accident. Judith is hurt, but it was clearly an accident and not that bad. Perry, who remember is in control of everything in his movies, puts a bizarre, dangerous music sting to the collision.
Not only that, but Evil Sexy Zuckerberg goes apeshit over this. He overreacts about as badly as you could and sort of threatens violence towards the poor guy on the bicycle who is not only just trying to get along with his day, but cares enough to wear a helmet while riding a bike.
Murray: It’s doubly hilarious because innocent bicyclist is in said dorky helmet, just trying to live his life, and Evil Sexy Zuckerberg is shirtless and wearing like running shorts and full length leggings. I don’t know what climate he exercises in.
Lepore: Look, based on Judith’s life, if you ever go outside you are gonna literally die. He’s being safe.
Murray: The juxtaposition of those scenes was weird, because the earlier scene with her husband was part of showing her growing discontent in their relationship. She wasn’t satisfied with their sex life and now she thought he didn’t do enough to take care of her out of bed. It was piled on top of things like being unwilling to try new things and forgetting her birthday, so it was clearly to show us how Judith felt he was failing her as a husband.
And then Evil Sexy Zuckerberg loses his mind on this poor bicyclist and we never really get a read of how that’s supposed to be interpreted. Is this how a MAN is supposed to take care of his woman? He’s the chest-thumping alpha male alternative to her bland husband.
Of course, ESZ will eventually go on to beat the shit out of Judith herself, so this is probably Tyler Perry’s way of telling women who like tough guys to be careful what they wish for, because they are probably karmically lining themselves up for a beating.
Man, I hate Tyler Perry.
- Sam is now writing for The AP Party as a contributor! Check out her manifesto on the greatness of Pretty Little Liars if you haven’t yet!
- This movie has a really unnecessary framing device of older Judith (now a marriage counselor) telling the entire “story” of the movie to a woman considering a self-described “almost affair” who eventually thanks Judith for warning her… that she’ll get HIV if she cheats on her husband, because that’s what the movie believes. Older Judith then goes to visit slightly older Bland Sexy Husband at his pharmacy to get her medication. Bland Sexy Husband is married, but not to Brandy, who apparently just kind of works there. Brandy and Judith are alone, because they know what they did.
- We both predicted oddly specific elements of this movie: Sam predicted that Brandy would end up being Evil Sexy Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend. Steve predicted that Vanessa Williams’ French accent would be an affectation based on a two-week vacation. She turned out to be from Georgia.
- At one point, Steve said “Thank god, Kim Kardashian is back!” If you see him, give him a hug.
- Sam got bored and drew cats at some point during the movie. Please tweet at her and see if she’ll show us all the photos of the cats.