If you’re not familiar with our Plot Recreated with Reviews feature, it works like this: we take a movie we haven’t seen and try to recreate the entire story using summaries from the reviews. The idea is to use only summary quotes (no analysis!), so that the only editorializing comes by way of delicious passive-aggression. We haven’t done one in a while, because it requires a movie with a plot that’s sort of funny in its own right. Juicy melodrama tends to work the best. And I do believe Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (yes, that is the full title) fits that bill. Here’s the IMDB synopsis:
An ambitious married woman’s temptation by a handsome billionaire leads to betrayal, recklessness, and forever alters the course of her life.
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for any description that includes the phrase “handsome billionaire.” Okay, let’s do this. And remember, this film didn’t screen for critics, so you have to assume that most of these critics saw it on their own dime.
The story is framed by a tale that a couples therapist imparts to a cheating wife. It concerns Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross), childhood friends in a small, golden-sepia Southern town who are destined for matrimony**, flirting against the wishes of Judith’s scripture-quoting battle-ax mother (Ella Joyce).*
Brice is happy being a humble pharmacist*, while Judith wants to be a marriage counselor and ends up becoming the in-house therapist at a high-class, millionaire matchmaking service***, a high-end operation that Judith can’t stand, despite only working there for less than a month****.
She locks horns with a bitchy, materialistic co-worker (Kim Kardashian essentially playing Kim Kardashian) and her cartoonishly cougar-ish boss, Janice (Vanessa Williams, using a broad French accent)*. Kim Kardashian’s character exists mostly to criticize the wardrobe of Judith *****, uttering bon mots like, “That’s not make-up, that’s make-down.”******
Janice introduces Judith to Harley (Robbie Jones)**, a sort of black Thomas Crown******, a dapper social-media magnate Janice covets as an investor,** and the two begin working with each other on a computer program that matches romantic compatibility****.
Harley spends the first hour of the film gazing lustfully and soulfully at Judith while purring barely concealed come-ons that manage to convey, “I want to have sex with you despite your marriage and strong Christian virtues.”****** Judith, bored by the dutiful, spectacled Brice and feeling professionally stalled, is easy prey for Harley’s seductions.**
Soon, Judith is ditching her sensible shoes and dowdy ensembles for the highest heels and the tightest dresses.******* He’s plying her with flattery, Champagne, rides in his private jet and devil-red Ferrari and other sinful apples,** flashing his ridiculous wealth and even more ridiculous abs,* with Brice as the no-no example of a husband: forgetful, inattentive, boring in bed.***
Poor Brice back at home doesn’t stand a chance,* …despite Gross possessing the kindness of a saint and the physique of a Chippendales dancer. (In Perry’s beefcake world, even the boring, bland alternative strips down constantly to show off his impressive pectoral muscles.)******
Brice is initially blind to Judith’s fall from grace (and departure from the kitchen), distracted by the gentle Melinda (Brandy Norwood, a k a the R&B singer Brandy), a recent hire who is escaping an abusive boyfriend. But Judith’s mother, Sarah (Ella Joyce),** a literally thumping-a-bible******* minister, knows. She admonishes her daughter, but even Sarah’s prayer group can’t save Judith from a cruel, heavy-handed lesson.**
Judith’s first taste of alcohol leads quickly to succumbing to Harley’s advances.******* Judith ignores her mother (Ella Joyce) and delves right into adultery, material greed and the demon cocaine.*** Alcoholism, drug addiction, career disaster…**** homosexuality used as a punch line…******* …private jet trips, mind-blowing sex, a world of wealth and luxuries beyond her wildest dreams.****** …an adulterous bathtub romp that’s so steamy that you can barely see the lovers at all.*******
…drug abuse, domestic abuse, general wickedness, a turn away from family and the church and, for good measure, the late-breaking threat of HIV infection to punish the promiscuous.***** A scene in which Brice whips off his eyeglasses to reveal perfectly painted-on movie tears.**
Harley is considerate enough to essentially give Judith a heads up that he will undergo a dramatic transformation from dream lover to coked-up Antichrist when he warns her that he gets super-intense when he falls in love. Like, crazy, psychotic, restraining-order intense.****** The film is nearly over and still using establishing shots of Washington, D.C., landmarks.*****
The actors deliver hefty pieces of exposition via stilted conversation, and absolutely no one feels like a real person or a believable character. …The whole enterprise is actually at the mercy of a jaw-dropper of a secret that will leave audiences reeling and wondering if maybe, just maybe, the rest of the film was worth enduring just for that final gasp.****
Okay, so I cheated a little bit at the end there to give it an ending. None of the reviews revealed what the jaw-dropping secret was, but based on the rest of the movie, I’m guessing it involved a buff dude with his shirt off.
MILLION-DOLLAR IDEA: Tyler Perry’s The Expendables 3. Greenlight it today unless you hate money.