Taraji P. Henson stars as Melinda, the wife of an idealistic inventor named Robert (Lyriq Bent). They are the textbook definition of a dysfunctional relationship. Both have individual insecurities and flaws that make them a volatile pair. After their unhappy union finally dissolves, Robert is offered a life-changing deal that causes Melinda to have a change of heart. Unable to think rationally her regret morphs into rage and she threatens the lives of those closest to her.
While it’s not a perfect film (is there really such a thing?), Acrimony certainly provides entertainment for better or for worse.
First and foremost Henson is a beast. I’m always impressed by how much she commits to the characters she portrays. She doesn’t just “pretend” to be another person, she actually becomes them. Her talent has led her to take on incredibly versatile roles. Carter, Cookie, Katherine, Mary….all strong women and all flawed, but perhaps none as much as Melinda. The movie on the whole definitely has its flaws, but Taraji is assuredly not one of them.
One of the most curious aspects of Acrimony is the fact that it’s really only a thriller for the last 30 minutes or so. Up until that point I’d describe it as a drama…a sad and unhappy drama featuring two emotionally wounded partners.
We aren’t just looking at this dysfunctional couple in the present; we see everything from their first meeting, up to their first fight and eventual wedding. It’s startling to think about all of the red flags leading up to the movie’s final moments. And even more so when you count the number of times one of them should have walked away from the relationship. The pacing is very slow and the drifting quality of the story makes the run time (2 hours) seem even longer than it really is.
I do wonder about the messages that this movie sends. It’s hard to get into without giving away spoilers, but I think the ending can be left open to completely different interpretations. The film seems to suggest that a truly faithful spouse should tolerate marital abuse (mental, emotional, etc.) because that proves their love and commitment. Furthermore, if you endure the emotional manipulation long enough (18 years in the case of Melinda) all your suffering will be worth it in the end.
I tend to look for some form of redemption in films like these and so I consider Acrimony something of a cautionary tale. Choosing to make the same decisions as these characters will likely prove fatal. This is underscored by the film’s bleak third act.
What do you think about the film’s ending? Does it send a problematic message about marital abuse? Leave me a comment down below!
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony is of course written, directed and executive produced by Perry. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Lyriq Bent, Crystle Stewart, Danielle Nicolet, Bresha Webb, Jazmyn Simon, Kendrick Cross, Nelson Estevez, and Ajiona Alexus.
*FYI The film received an R rating as it does contain strong language and mature subject matter