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Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds

February 26, 2012
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds

It might be hard to believe, but it seems like Tyler Perry is really starting to grow as a writer and director. His latest project — Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds isn’t the greatest drama in the world or the most original story, but it’s calmer, subtler, and more thoughtful than yet another of his Madea films.

Wesley Deeds (Perry) is the scion of the huge, San Francisco software corporation that his father built from scratch, though the crown fits less than comfortably on his head. Besides the headaches cased by his erratic, jealous brother, Walter Junior (Brian White), there’s the pressure from his mother (Phylicia Rashad) to run this company as his father’s legacy, to marry Natalie (Gabrielle Union) — a young woman from a very well-heeled family — and to live this life.

And Wesley, being a good son, takes this all on uncomplainingly, if at times robotically. He has an established routine Natalie can set her watch by as she quotes his daily comments seconds before he does. It’s a very nice life, actually, but it’s just not really his.

Lindsey Wakefield (Thandie Newton) is the complete opposite: her life is hers, and it’s falling apart. She and her daughter Ariel (Jordenn Thompson) are evicted from their apartment when her wages are garnished down to just over a hundred dollars a week by the IRS. She’s proud, though, and tries her best to cobble something together on her own rather than ask for help, even if that means she and Ariel have to live in their van and Ariel has to stay in a supply closet while Lindsey works the night janitorial shift at — wait for it — the Deeds office building.

Of course Wesley becomes slowly aware of Lindsey and her situation, and he’s moved to reach out and help, which in turn works to break him out of his own rut. The moral, since a Tyler Perry movie must have one, speaks to how looking outside ourselves and doing good in the world can reap it’s own rewards back to us.

The story falters in that it only works if you focus mostly on Wesley; as you pay more and more attention to Lindsey the injustice of her life becomes overwhelming. While in this case Wesley is able to help, there are few luxury corporate apartments sitting empty, and fewer corporate titans inclined to grant their free use. And there are entirely too many families in straits just as dire as Lindsey’s for this sort of assistance to be anything more than an extravagant drop in an impossibly large bucket.

Compounding this, Perry isn’t exactly the world’s best actor. He’s pretty serviceable, of course, for a simple morality play, but it always feels like he’s wearing a Wesley suit just as he wears a Madea suit. Newton, on the other hand, is inspired. Every bit of business builds onto her character, and Lindsey is easily the most believable one in sight, even as overwrought as she can sometimes get.

But for all its troubles, simplicity can sometimes be a plus. Good Deeds may not be the most ambitious film, but it’s got a good heart.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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