Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor
Though structured as a cautionary tale about the dangers of a good Christian woman leaving a good Christian man for a sinfully irresistible seducer, Temptation starts out like a romance novel. A sexually unfulfilled wife (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) finds…
Smollett-Bell lends her default expression of dour, glum intensity to the unrewarding lead role of a fiercely ambitious businesswoman. (Boo! Hiss!) Her job as an assistant to a Patti Stanger-style “Millionaire Matchmaker” played by Vanessa Williams doesn’t begin to satisfy her professional aspirations, just as her marriage to pharmacist Lance Gross doesn’t satisfy her sexually, 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.) Smollett-Bell’s dully stable, secure life is shaken up when she meets Jones, a sort of black Thomas Crown who introduces her to a world of wealth and luxuries beyond her wildest dreams. Their courtship is filled with private jet trips, mind-blowing sex, and ultimately cocaine, a development handled with all the subtlety and sophistication of an after-school special (which might actually represent a step up for Perry).
Smollett-Bell and Jones both pride themselves on their almost preternatural powers of intuition and deduction, an ability to read people with the lightning-fast insight of Sherlock Holmes. But that gift is wasted in a Tyler Perry movie, where everyone and everything are exactly what they initially seem to be. Hell, Jones is even considerate enough to essentially give Smollett-Bell 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. (Needless to say, he lives up to that billing.)