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Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

2013 | 111 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor


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Theatrical release date

 29 March, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 29, 2013

Tyler Perry makes two types of films: comedies and melodramas. He'll usually blend the genres to give his audience the most bang for their buck, but he's resolute in his directorial range, with "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor" his most combustible picture to date, even out-heaving "For Colored Girls." A biblical parable dressed up as an unruly Perry extravaganza, the feature does a commendable job with fiery tempers and silky acts of seduction, showing signs of life as a cheap thrill for an audience more than happy to interact with the screen. Expectedly, Perry can't maintain the insanity for long, eventually drowning the effort in severity to make a chilling impression. Still, "Temptation," when it's just overheated and not apocalyptic, is engaging enough to pass, generating sufficient hullabaloo without taxing Perry's pedestrian moviemaking skills.

Bonding as children in the rural south, Judith (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross) have grown into a married couple stuck in a rut of routine in Washington D.C. Frustrated with her day job at a millionaire matchmaking firm, Judith finds comfort in social media mogul Harley (Robbie Jones), a cocksure businessman who takes a shine to the stymied subordinate, a woman who's constantly berated for her plain fashion and Christian thinking by co-worker Ava (Kim Kardashian). While Brice holds down a simple job as a pharmacist, offering employment to jittery new hire Melinda (Brandy Norwood), Judith receives the full court press from Harley, who woos the married woman with exotic trips, fast cars, and a new wardrobe, pushing her to cheat on her husband. At first trying to cling to her moral upbringing, Judith quickly gives into the passion, growing obsessed with Harley as he plies her with drugs and drink, planning a marriage counseling business together. While her reverend mother (Ella Joyce) proclaims Harley to be Satan incarnate, Brice is a little slower on the uptake, gradually realizing that his safe, predictable marriage is being destroyed behind his back.

After returning to an all-time creative low with last spring's inept "Madea's Witness Protection," Perry issues a slow jam with "Temptation" (which was actually shot before "Witness Protection," but Madea is a sure thing), taking only a writer/director role, leaving the acting to a young cast who've clearly found time in their busy schedules to hit the gym. The screenplay details the misery of pretty people, but it's persuasive stuff for the first hour, hitting a few telenovela highlights as Judith is blindsided by Harley's lip-licking attention, watching the millionaire use his weapons of wealth, power, and shirtlessness to woo the married woman, luring her into a situation where the good Christian girl abandons her soul to be with the Devil and his exceptional bedroom skills. It's nothing daytime programming hasn't covered, yet it's interesting to watch Perry give the film over to such brazen manipulation without breaking for idiotic laughs or to issue a sermon. "Temptation" is played relatively straight, concentrating on Harley's evil-yet-enticing acts of attention and Brice's simpleton mistakes as a good man.

"Temptation" isn't subtle (Perry is incapable of such a thing), having Harley drive around in a red sports car and shove cocaine up Judith's nose (the harder edges of the picture have been softened to fit a PG-13 rating), and there's a hilarious showdown between the leading men during one of Harley's sinful apartment parties, where the hapless small business owner enters "Hell" (there's a roaring fire in the background and gay men are in attendance) to retrieve his zonked-out wife. Judith's God-fearing mother also factors prominently in the second half, identifying Harley's sulfuric-scented game while attempting to awaken her daughter's senses via prayer circle. It's campy but inoffensive, that is until Perry refuses to find a quick resolution to the story, padding out the ridiculousness for nearly two hours, also making time to deal with Melinda's tale of marital abuse and disillusionment. Also weakening the feature is Perry's feeble screenwriting, which barely makes an effort to organically peel Judith away from Brice, making the character sound like a moron when discussing her empty life with a fallible, absent-minded, but excessively kind guy when Harley is clearly a road to personal ruin. Even weirder, the first sexual encounter between Judith and Harley could legally be classified as date rape, though in Perry's warped mind, their airplane tryst is an act of submission where "No, no, please get away" actually means yes. Perhaps it's not the right message to put out into the world, but the filmmaker has made a fortune selling reprehensible behavior as gospel.

"Temptation" goes from a guilty pleasure to a drag in its final reel, with violence and shocking revelations employed to leave the audience dizzy instead of unsettled. Commendably, Perry follows through on harsh punishment for a few of the characters, though with all the exaggeration flowing through the effort, it's difficult to feel the true sense of moral equilibrium the director is aiming for. "Temptation" should've been left short and sinister. Embellishing the material with superfluous detail only manages to water down the movie's inviting soap opera decadence.

Starring: Vanessa Williams (VII), Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Kim Kardashian, Lance Gross
Director: Tyler Perry

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