Torn between my indifference for Tyler Perry’s fascination of the black female narrative, and a desire to support Taraji P Henson as lead actress, my experience viewing the movie proved just as ambivalent. Acrimony tells the story of Melinda (Taraji P. Henson) who viewers meet a court hearing where she is advised to stop “harrassing these people” and ordered to attend anger management. It is in this therapist’s office that Melinda divulges the path that engendered her present distress.
The Plot (Spoilers)
As a college students struggling to meet the white man’s standards of intelligence, Melinda meets Robert (Lyriq Bent), an upperclassman. The encounter cost Melinda her paper, but foments a bond between Robert and her that would last the rest of her life. Shortly after meeting, Melinda’s mother dies and she simultaneously falls into a house, $350,000 and a new relationship with an orphaned man with big dreams.
It is not long before Melinda becomes a full investor in Robert’s ambitions, buying him a car, paying his tuition and investing in a battery Robert believes is ground-breaking. After Melinda buys Robert a new car, he becomes hard-to-reach. Melinda laments on waiting two days for him to call her before catching Robert cheating on her with another woman—June. Distressed, Melinda destroys Robert’s trailer, interrupting his infidelity and her infertility all at once. Melinda’s act prompts an emergency hysterectomy before her twenty-first birthday, yet the two reconcile and get married.
Robert graduates from college and he and Melinda morph from starry-eyed kids to adults who have wasted away in the promise of a tomorrow that never came. The story takes a twist when. June, the woman who Robert cheated on Melinda with decades earlier takes on a prominent role at a company he has sought to parter with for two decades. She presents an opportunity for Robert at the same time he is to fulfill an obligation for Melinda to help keep her mother’s house—a house he called home for almost two decades. He reneges on his promise to Melinda and takes a meeting where he is offered $800,000 for his product—but turns it down.
Melinda, made aware of Robert and June’s reunion after her sisters find June’s wallet in Robert’s car, and left homeless by Robert’s failure to come through for her is finally convinced he is the thoughtless man her sisters warned her about decades ago and files for divorce. After working in a kitchen and staying at a homeless shelter, June gets Robert a multi-million dollar deal and the two live the life Robert promised Melinda.
“If money can fix you you were never broken”
The plot, a medley of the real and imaginary, appears a deliberate attempt to humanize both the black man and black woman. Melinda both confirms and layers the angry black woman stereotype, illustrating not anger but hurt. Robert illustrates the common combination of melanin and ambition—which often becomes the deferred dream Langston Hughes speaks to his famous poem “Harlem.”
Melinda without a doubt is the air that inflates Robert’s dream— a dream that does not manifest until her departure. So while Robert gives her ten million of his seventy five million dollar fortune, and gets back the house he was not willing to sacrifice his dreams to help her save—his efforts are a decade late and millions of dollars short—as what he took from Melinda was something money can simply not buy. Robert offering money to a woman whom he met in a moment of loss, a woman who took care of him for two decades for him to chase a dream and life she never got to benefit from, illustrates his oversimplification of the black female sentiment and general insensitivity to the needs of a black women. As the exteriorized objects of white supremacy, the black body often misinterprets white commerce as a bandaid to black distress. Robert’s empty gesture proves that money heals no wounds.
This proves an interesting commentary on reparations, as in many ways Melinda symbolizes the black body who in past and present manifestations toils to make everyone’s dreams come true but their own. Melinda symbolically represents the objectified black body whose bodily fortune proved lucrative to an external source that gained despite her habitual loss.
So while a lackluster plot and mediocre writing, I will grudgingly admit that the film prompted me to consider what it is we want as black women, and a black collective as a whole?
I’ll be honest and state that the ending to Acrimony proved the most disturbing ending I have seen in a while. Engulfed by rage. Melinda boards Robert and June’s ship, with the sole purpose of making them feel the pain they both have caused her, and while it seems like she’ll avenge her feelings things do not go as planned. After shooting Robert and ordering the crew to jump off the boat, Melinda is well into her plan when the chain that holds the ship’s anchor comes loose and takes Melinda to the bottom of the sea where she joins the countless African atoms that are too eternally fixed in the sea. The ending bothered me, because it mirrors a sentiment I have been battling for a while—that there is no such a thing as Karma. After suffering decades of loss, Melinda does not get retribution or even sanity—she gets death.
Frozen in a water tomb, Melinda takes a place alongside the atoms of her forgotten foremothers, who’s heart was too big for such a small world. Melinda loves hard in a loveless world, portraying the nature, or pure “soul of black folks” as sentenced to a premature death—-karma friend to their foe who opposes the black body violently in both past and present manifestations.
Water takes on many forms in black life, sweat, tears, neither functioning to garner the black body any empathy from a world that takes but does not give. Melinda has an interesting and fatal relationship with water. She meets Robert in the rain, an encounter that costs her a paper. And it is the water that takes her life in the film’s final scene.
Watching a black woman grapple for air, or “Aspire” in the manner Christina Sharpe delineates in the wake, is troubling in itself, its representation capturing the black female desire to exhale.
After living a life saturated in hurt, it seems a biting reality that her death has to hurt as well. Though, as illustrated in the continuous lynchings of black men and women, this sour depiction is painful but true.
A biting issue I have with the ending is that it possibly functions to depict the angry black woman as inducing her own demise—or black anger as a catalyst for black death. This is troublesome as the angry black woman is a caricature—she does not exist. Anger is a veil placed over the black face to avoid acknowledging that the black face is a face at all.
Blacks are not given a space to exist period—and are not given outlets to process their feelings as they are seldom acknowledged as having any. So, Melinda’s stumble into destruction is according to plan— as the black body is programmed to fall off the tightrope they were never trained to walk.
Robert and Melinda illustrate black desire to be loved—-however only the black woman was willing to exteriorize her internal needs—in exteriorizing her affection Melinda loves her way to hate which eventually becomes obsession. Exteriorizing her affection not only makes it impossible for Melinda to love herself, but to see herself. She loses herself in the reflectness of unconditional love—she loses herself trying to produce the love absent from her life.
Color plays a significant role in the movie’s final scene as all the characters wear white and are aboard a white yacht. Given that Melinda drowns while Robert and June survive to live the live Robert promised Melinda—it appears that the female blackened by unconditional love can simply not be white in the way her selfish and money oriented counterparts can, Though Robert, June, and Melinda are all black, Robert and Melinda adopt a proximity to whiteness in their money has purchased their black bodies from the auction block prompting their exchange of economic poverty for moral impoverishment.
In a loveless world, it is absolutely essential that blacks love one another.
This is not to say that Robert is not worthy of unconditional love, but that the love we deserve as black people is the love we must pay forward.
Black Power ❤
5 Comments Add yours
Interesting. I agree with most of the review, but for me I think it speaks to a bigger issue of her undiagnosed mental health. There is clearly something wrong with her and we in the black community don’t value mental health and even when the therapist told her that she suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) she refused to accept it.
Most people with personality disorders don’t accept that they have them. However, BPD is “A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
(1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
(3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self
(4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.
(5) recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior
(6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
(7) chronic feelings of emptiness
(8) inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
(9) transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
Looking at the above list, She had more than half of these symptoms. So, if mental health was her underlining issue isn’t it fair to say that to not treat your health issues can have disastrous outcomes on your life or the lives around you? I never saw her as a bitter or angry black woman. From the opening scene where she was fighting Robert I saw someone who comes unhinged quickly. Who fights someone for accidentally bumping into you in the rain? Her own words she stated how the rain does something to her. Her sisters confirmed that she had always been like this. Part of BPD is that her emotions are unstable and easily aroused and intense. Her behavior throughout the movie made me agree with the therapist.
Thanks for your comment.
Eh, there is much to be said about diagnosing black bodies by the labels of white science, and white supremacists who refuse to acknowledge their own grave psychopathy.
This was an excellent Counter Racist Movie Review! I have never watched a Tyler Perry movie, other than commercials or bits and pieces here and there, but after reading your review, I feel as though I have seen this movie, which is a testament to superb and eloquent writing! I do think it might not be a bad idea for all of Tyler Perry movies to begin with a disclaimer that says Tyler Perry is a victim of sexual abuse that has suffered severe sexual abuse and mental trauma from a black male or black males. This information I think is critical in viewing the body of work that he has produced. Tyler Perry is very talented, I just think this information might be helpful for all the black people viewing these movies to keep the disclaimer in the front of their minds, rather than in the background of their minds while they view Tyler’s content. I could be incorrect about this.
“In a loveless world, it is absolutely essential that blacks love one another.” This is pure Code and needs to be taught to all black children and black adults too if at all possible.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing said Black Self Respect is more powerful than a Nuclear Bomb, that really needs to be thought about by black people. Dr. Welsing was not being cliche, this is a statement that is made from decades of meticulous study and research on White Supremacy.
From this movie review I detect that this movie may have some jewels in it, that maybe the black collective can utilize to modify parts of our behavior to have more fulfilling lives and relationships between the black male and black female.
Black females must stop settling for trifling black males who physically and mentally have no disabilities. Don’t abandon them, just do not involve yourselves with them. The message has to be sent to black males, that you can only have a black female when you are doing the constructive things you are supposed to be doing as a black male, in a Racist White Supremacists society, if the black male is off Code and out of line with this, then the black male must be given plenty of alone time and solitude to quietly and peacefully come to his senses on his own of how he must correct his own behavior to deserve and be with a black female under war time conditions.
Again great review, I feel as though I am leaving the movie theater 🍿 🎥
I think Black Women/Collective want justice. I think some of us want money (due to current financial situations) but is money the answer? It wasn’t for Melinda. She wanted the dream promised. It wasn’t fair. Which brings me to karma.
Things like Karma, Jesus is coming… or the lottery seems to be the fantasy Black ppl hold on too. This “one day” things will change or we’ll get our 40 acres and a mule— is all a fantasy. It does hurt my feelings knowing most traumas (past and present) happens to Black ppl! As if the universe is conspiring… but only ppl can tip the scales of justice. Only people can claim their own 40acres. Only Black people can change their course of history. Not karma. not Jesus. Not white guilt. Not the lottery. Etc.
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I didn’t like how the movie no longer made us feel sorry for her (bc he gave her money and her mamas house) or Melindas husband pleaded with her before he signed the divorce papers. As if, The Black woman can no longer be a victim if she’s paid… and if she doesn’t get everything she wants (or things don’t go her way)—then she angry. So yea, I think Black Women want justice -we want balance. We want fair. We want ppl to stop saying life isn’t fair. What do you think Black Women/The Collective want?! We want more than 40acres. I think we want more than time. Time is a start,though… but I think the black collective doesn’t have time to think about these things bc we’re consumed with stress and everything that encompasses stress. A stressful mind doesn’t have time to ‘Do’ what we ‘Talk about’ on what we want in life. —Energy,Motion,Magnetism. But is it stress or lack of Motion. Hmm. Bc we have the energy(the thoughts,the words, the anger) but to Do it, to put those thoughts in action seems to be why we’re unable to get what we want. —-anyway I’m going to deep with it. But you mentioned karma. I’ve been thinking a lot about it. So…
Also, I wasn’t sure if you like the movie or not. Lol. You said indifferent but it read like you approved it but didn’t like that you approved of it…. If that makes sense. 😀
Hey! Thanks for your comment.
I don’t really “like” movies or any kind of visual text unless it’s Malcolm X speeches on YouTube. I do like analyzing them, and I enjoyed the opportunity to “meta” and apply the theory I’ve been studying. And honestly, I wouldn’t advice anyone to watch a Tyler Perry movie unless implanting an analysis. But I know that a lot of ppl are into Mr Perry/visual texts, so I’m just trying to meet the people where they’re at!
Thanks for your thoughts.