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All Things Fall Apart

2011 | 110 min | R | 1.85:1

All Things Fall Apart


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Theatrical release date

 14 February, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from All Things Fall Apart Blu-ray

All Things Fall Apart Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, February 2, 2012

For the last seven years, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has attempted to become an actor. The rapper has worked his way through the Hollywood system, going from a top-billed behemoth to a DTV mainstay, gradually taking command of his projects as a way to market his interests in full. “All Things Fall Apart” is perhaps Jackson’s most brazen attempt to achieve thespian respectability, co-scripting himself a tender story of life’s cruelties, the dissipation of dreams, and the undying human spirit, employing a backdrop of today’s medical industry and job market frustrations to assist in the accessibility of the material. Straining to be meaningful until its blue in the face, “All Things Fall Apart” is a hackneyed, stilted production, held back in great part by Jackson’s decision to insert himself in the lead role.

A dazzling collegiate football player, Deon (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) is ready for the bright lights of the NFL, embracing life as a lousy student, unapologetic womanizer, and financial savor to his family, including mother Bee (Lynn Whitfield), stepfather Eric (Mario Van Peebles), and resentful brother Sean (Cedric Sanders). Reaching for the big time, Deon is hit with a cancer diagnosis, a revelation that rocks the family and destroys his life. Losing his fame and potential fortune, Deon is reduced to a shell of a man, challenged to find his way through life without the ease he’s accustomed to, with Dr. Brintall (Ray Liotta) discouraging him from physical activity. Hitting rock bottom, Deon works up the courage to rebuild his world, hoping to earn respect from his family and live a full life on his own terms.

Looking to generate his own variation on “Brian’s Song,” Jackson (who accepts story, starring, co-screenplay, soundtrack, and producing credits) whips up a syrupy urban tale of dashed football aspirations, utilizing the horror of cancer to guide a formulaic script of redemption, following Deon’s arc from superstar to beggar, hitting all the sensitive beats of realization and dissatisfaction along the way. It’s a pedestrian piece of writing that doesn’t take any chances, utterly dependent on clichés to beef up its running time, trusting the sensitivity of the illness will cover for the distinct absence of creativity. “All Things Fall Apart” is filled with cheats and overt manipulations, crying out for just a smidge of invention that would enliven the story and provide a more striking example of a family’s hopes and dreams decimated by disease.

Director Mario Van Peebles holds tight to predictability, serving up the sporting triumphs and medical misery without contest. The helmer aims for earnestness, but can’t crack the tone-deaf script, working with surprisingly unlikable characters that don’t possess the clarity of thought traditionally enjoyed with such tales of strife. Deon himself is a strange figure of celebration, openly disrespecting his justifiably sensitive brother while treating women as disposable amusement, yet he’s continually propped up as an angel, refusing to accept responsibility for his disturbing behavior. There’s an entire subplot with Deon “stealing” a love interest (Tracey Heggins) away from Sean that’s baffling, revealing the lead character to be utterly heartless, which is not a quality that scrapes away as easily as Van Peebles would like.

It’s easy to pick on Jackson’s inadequate acting ability, which is normally hidden behind cartoonish displays of masculinity in movies few have seen. “All Things Fall Apart” is an ambitious turn for the media mogul, offering a chance to reveal a softer side and bewigged commitment to character, with Jackson displaying significant weight loss to play Deon at his lowest point of medical treatment. The effort is wasted on a performer who has no discernable range, keeping Deon a mumbler with one stone-faced reaction to anything he’s confronted with. Despite a showcase of tears, it’s a terrible performance from a man lacking screen charisma. The supporting cast attempts to cover the gap in emotional resonance through melodramatic wails (Whitman is unbearable) and impassioned monologuing, but it’s wasted energy when the entire picture is dependent on a performer who never seems fully awake, incapable of capturing the traumatic waves of fate that define the story.

“All Things Fall Apart” aims to cozy up to the viewer with easy shots at vampiric medical industry practices (Dr. Brintall admits he bleeds patents dry of their insurance money), also turning Deon into a model of educational rehabilitation, with the character discovering that “smart is the new gangsta.” Provocative, but the picture is a creaky, unconvincing effort with noticeable budgetary limitations and pronounced cluelessness -- the kind of film where characters flashback to conversations they were never part of. “All Things Fall Apart” might’ve been a different movie without Jackson’s onscreen participation, but it’s clear it wouldn’t have been a better one.

Starring: 50 Cent, Mario Van Peebles, Lynn Whitfield, Ray Liotta
Director: Mario Van Peebles

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