Like many people, I am aware of Tyler Perry's career the same way I am aware of most disasters: I have seen the devastation from a distance and wonder if anything could have been done to prevent it. But sometimes these things hit close to home, as happened when A Fall From Grace slammed into Netflix and somehow became the worst thing on a platform that barely has quality control in the first place. So I had to watch it for myself.
And let me tell you, everything the internet has said about this movie doesn't even come close to capturing the ineptitude on display here. It's like a clown car of problems, and they start at the very beginning.
On the way to work, our hero, Jasmine Bryant, hears two morning DJs talking about a woman who killed her husband. One nitpicks the word "allegedly," because she clearly did it. We know this because the DJ says "she clearly did it." Remember this, because it won't be relevant until much later in the film, and therefore much later in this article. Try not to lose it among the other confusing details.
Quicker than we can realize our hero is a defense attorney, the movie is derailed with all the grace of a nut punch at a funeral. What the hell happened to Tyler Perry's head? For no good reason, he's wearing a sad wig from the clearance bin of a Spirit Halloween, a monstrosity that screams, "Hello, I'm made of stray cats, none of whom died a good death." But why? WHY?
Perry actually went out of his way to explain this wig (and others that will follow), saying he didn't have time to find "the right wig." What? You're the director. That's literally your job. Of course, Perry did film this thing in five days. But also, this is a Tyler Perry Studios film. Surely he could've given himself the option to finish the script on a Monday and at least take until the next Tuesday to wrap shooting.
OK, so Jasmine is a public defender, and she does not want to defend this lady Grace (get it?), who killed her husband for reasons. Perry, her boss, says it's an easy case because she's so clearly guilty. There is a "mountain" of evidence, and she confessed. Just plead it out, he says, because that's Jasmine's specialty. Everyone in the office is jealous that she got the case. Why does she not want it? Like most of the mysteries in this film, what's supposed to be intrigue is in fact nothing but people having unexplained feelings and motivations.
The radio again confirms for us that "everyone" in town is talking about this case, and they're all so convinced Grace is guilty that a trial seems like a waste of time. Now, seeing as she hasn't even met a lawyer yet, it seems like maybe the trial is a ways off, and maybe this lady was only just arrested. I mean, isn't that how the law works? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS, WIG-HATER!
Also, the opening credits haven't even finished, and it's already painfully obvious that this woman didn't kill her husband. What, are we supposed to expect that this will end with the movie saying, "Well, guess all those people were right. Now enjoy these four seconds of credits before Netflix auto-plays Season 1 of The Stranger."
Jasmine goes to visit Grace in lockup, walking through like a ham sandwich trying to sneak past my dog. She's so nervous that it implies she's ... never been to a jail before? Even though she's a criminal defense lawyer? Maybe all her previous work has been in, oh I don't know, wig racketeering. We are six minutes into the movie.
Oh man, Grace's wig is even worse than Perry's. It looks like it's actively being scared off actress Crystal Fox's head. And Fox knew this, as she and Perry had huge fights about it during filming. So that's a bummer. You didn't deserve this in the slightest, Crystal.
Jasmine, her husband, and her fellow lawyers get together for drinks. One of the lawyers decides there's actually plenty to use to defend Grace. After all, she baked cookies and taught Sunday School. For all you non-legalese-speaking simpletons, that spells reasonable doubt. The woman confessed to murder and wants to plead guilty, their boss has ordered them to plead guilty, and the DJ we've heard twice already said she did it, but this guy wants to mount a cookie-based defense? Every page of this script is unaware of the page that came before it.
Jasmine confesses that she thought being a public defender would be better, but it turns out all of her clients are criminals, and that makes her sad. She no longer wants to be a lawyer. What ... what did she think this job would entail?
Holy shit, it's Clair Huxtable! Phylicia Rashad plays Grace's lifelong friend and character witness, Sarah. She pours Jasmine some coffee from a kettle that is pristine white and has clearly never been used before, because this movie will continually and aggressively remind you of its artifice.
Sarah has a creepy old lady lurking in her house, complete with ominous music playing in the background. Now, I don't wanna shit on how you make movies, but there's foreshadowing, and then there's "Here's something to let you know Sarah is actually evil. This will be played as a shocking twist later."
Jasmine finally asks Grace what happened, which seems like a lawyer thing to do. And so in a flashback we meet the murder victim, Shannon, who's brandishing a painted Bart Simpson wig.
Of all the wigs in this movie, this is clearly the best one. It's a full-on fade that's about 6 inches tall. Glorious. The Netflix thumbnail for this movie should just be that wig.
Oh shit, the diner scene. Much has been made of this online, so I'll have to confirm that yes, the camera is inexplicably centered on an old man at a table in the background who pretends to eat a meal. It's whatever you'd call the exact opposite of method acting. He drinks from an empty cup and puts an empty fork to his mouth, clearly thinking he'd be further in the background, or out of focus, or that this couldn't possibly be a real movie that people would see.
Straight up, Grace is showering in that wig.
Shannon takes Grace to a flowery meadow full of fireflies to propose. OK, but hold up. He blindfolds her and walks her in and then, as she opens her eyes, the fireflies appear. Are these glowy-ass little bastards in cahoots with this man? Can they be brought in for questioning?
I need you to put this movie on and skip to 48:09. Look at Grace's hair. Now wait until 48:25. In those 16 seconds, someone took that woman's wig out behind the woodshed and beat it within an inch of its life before putting it back on her head.
We learn that not long after they got married, Shannon immediately robbed his wife's work, took out a mortgage on her home, and openly cheated on her. He's bold like the fresh taste of Fresca, so Grace bashes his goddamn head in with a baseball bat. She rains 11 mighty Louisville Slugger blows down on his skull with such force she looks like she just chewed her way out of the inside of a bear. She's absolutely soaked in blood. Oh. So she did murder him.
It is now 1 hour and 11 minutes into this film, and we learn a somewhat useful tidbit: There is no dead body. Grace left the house, then Sarah went in but said she found no corpse. The lawyer is just now learning this. Why would anyone involved, including the accused, just assume he died? And how the hell was the DA talking the death penalty in this case? That's not how the law works! That's not how anything works!
Jasmine tells Grace that she now believes there's enough wiggle room for her to be acquitted. The lack of a goddamn body seems to back this up. So did Grace just go to the police and confess to a murder, and they took it on faith because they found some blood in her house? Is that blood the supposed overwhelming evidence everyone keeps talking about? Because it's literally the only evidence we learn of in the entire film.
The trial sequence in this movie features the shittiest cinematic lawyering you will ever see. Jasmine's opening salvo to the jury? "Just look at her!" That's literally her defense. "Look at her. C'mon. C'moooooon! SHE BAKES COOKIES!" Jasmine further defends Grace by asserting that she loved her husband and didn't cause his disappearance. The only thing she knows for a fact right now is that Grace did not love her husband and did absolutely bash his goddamn head in, but whatever.
Sarah then gets called to the stand as a character witness, even though Jasmine knows that Grace called her and told her she murdered her husband. Her strategy? Welp, the prosecution doesn't know that. The prosecution promptly introduces phone records about Grace calling her the night of the murder. *sad trombone noise* Jasmine objects to the phone records because they were not in discovery. Ha, good lawyering! The prosecution counters with "Yeah, they were." She just never looked. This is a dumbass lasagna, full of idiot noodles layered with shredded dipshit cheese and chunky bumblefuck sauce.
Sarah says on the stand that Grace called her and confessed to killing Shannon. Super lawyer Jasmine has no further questions. Then she rests her case with no rebuttal or anything. She said earlier that she was tired of being a defense attorney, so is this her plan to get in good with the DA? Showing how amazing she is at losing a trial? In an even more baffling twist, Perry calls her out for bad lawyering. But he wrote this movie. Was all this him setting up a dunk to make his own character look wise?
During closing arguments, Jasmine tries to call Sarah back to the stand. The judge points out how dumb this is, given that she rested her case. She recalls Sarah anyway. Then does it again. Then she argues the point until she's held in contempt, because this character is the worst goddamn movie lawyer, and I've seen Jury Duty with Pauly Shore.
Tyler Perry Shyamalan's the hell out of the end of this movie. Are you ready? Not only is Shannon NOT dead from having his skull turned into chowder by a baseball bat, but that son of a bitch is a literal son of a bitch. His mom is ... Sarah! And they're both evil! They con women out of their money! They have a whole bunch of old ladies chained up in their basement!
Terrible lawyer Jasmine drags one of Sarah's kidnapping victims back to her house, because at this point how she's not accidentally drowning a box full of puppies is anyone's guess. During this scene, she also has someone else's flashback, which is just amazing. Have you ever seen someone remember someone else's scene from earlier in a movie? It happens here.
There are a solid dozen dirty old ladies tied up in this basement. The logistics are beyond words. The news lets us know that Shannon and Sarah have been doing this for 25 years. They kidnap women, steal their stuff, and keep them alive to collect Social Security money. They've raked in millions. So no one ever noticed this woman bringing old people into her home and them never leaving again. No families ever came looking for them.
Anyway, Jasmine handcuffs Sarah and shoots Shannon to death, Grace gets out of jail, and Jasmine ultimately gets a standing ovation in the courtroom for her "work." Oh, and then Sarah somehow sneaks away, and in the epilogue she gets a job caring for an elderly woman. She stops just short of winking at the camera before the credits roll.
So yeah. Three stars.
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