The new film Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys Together is a heartfelt melodrama that will either prompt you to leave the theater encouraged and uplifted or, for some professional critics, leave filled with angst or predictable disappointment. I experienced the former when I saw the film Thursday afternoon.
Tyler Perry’s films, if they are anything at all, are often controversial with the critics. Because Tyler Perry, the writer and producer, is black and because all his previous actors have been black, at least until this new movie, the African-American community has a very mixed reaction to his work. This reaction is much like that associated with the work of Bill Cosby on television in an earlier era. In my judgment this new film is a character rich movie that uplifts courage, faith and family. It includes a major sub-plot about betrayal and healing that also works quite well.
The film actually has the feel of a melodrama from an earlier era but looks intently at secret lives, heightened emotions and leisurely narratives with dignity and a very deft touch. The plots are strongly African-American. I paraphrase what one critic has said, in reviewing this film, by adding:
Perry has found success in a niche that only he now occupies. And by adding Christian tenets and modern issues—here they include sexual and economic tensions within marriage, careerism and the idea of white patronage on all class levels—Perry shows he knows modern life well. The result is a smart and satisfying movie experience.
I concur. The average the various film critics gave the film was a B- or C+ rating but more professional critics rated it a little higher. I would forget these reviews and see the film. If you like good stories and feel good movies you will like The Family That Preys Together.
Tyler Perry’s success story is fairly well known to his fans and critics. He rose from the grassroots to become a phenom in the movie industry. He owns his own studio in Atlanta and thus shuns the Hollywood establishment, a fact that has displeased many who are his critics. He attributes to his faith, and the power of learning to forgive, the key role in helping him reach these levels of success. The Family That Preys Together stars Alfre Woodard, who plays a sensational Alice, and Kathy Bates, a wealthy southern white woman who has lived her entire life for pleasure. I will not tell you more about the plot and the story lest I spoil it for you, the way so many reviews do. Perry plays a minor role in this movie and is at least an average, or better than average, actor.
The Family That Preys Together will most likely cause you to be entertained and to recall two things when you leave the theater. First, looks can be deceiving. Second, things are not always the way they seem. Critics suggest that Perry’s movies are “preachy" but I think they are balanced with moral lessons and funny moments of faith and values that come across in a refreshing way. At times they are much more about seeing yourself on the screen and forgiving yourself and others than about deep plots and subplots.
Tyler Perry has produced some poignant movies with which many African Americans can identify. I believe Perry is an amazing survivor and a first-rate businessman who has learned to work and succeed in a world that is filled with hatred and rivalry. His films are simple and the plots are not complex, though there are often too many characters. But in the end his stories tend to work very well.