“Film is recognized as a unique and powerful art form on a par with painting, sculpture, music, literature and drama” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 3). From the beginning of time, movies have been for entertainment and some even to teach about different life events. Throughout the years, technology has changed the way movies are produced and viewed. “The technological history of film can in fact be viewed as a continual evolution toward greater realism, toward erasing the border between art and nature” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 4). The quality of movies is exceptional and as time goes on, directors and moviegoers will look for more ways to entertain and to be entertained. Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself is an emotional roller coaster that starts with significant promise and a phenomenal cast, starring Taraji P. Henson and legends Gladys Knight and Mary J. Blige, before life into a to sensational inescapability.
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Tyler Perry is a director, actor, writer and producer. All of his films can and has been thought of as sacrilegious; however Perry himself is a God-fearing man who uses his comedic personality and infamous character Madea to tell a story that could possibly bring the unbelievers to Christianity. Madea brings the laughter, while other characters bring out the intensity in the film. In order to keep his films from critical analysis before they are released, he chooses not to share his films with critics beforehand.
They are not the usual kind of movie. They don’t fit into any category except their own: Tyler Perry movie. And as his wildly enthusiastic and utterly devoted fans know, that means a walloping portion of high drama and low comedy, with suffering women who are afraid to trust and very hunky men who are good with their hands, endlessly patient and thoughtful and — in both senses of the word — faithful. (Winow, 2010)
With the world consisting of many forms of Christians, some consider Perry’s films a mockery of Christianity. On the other hand, there are those who believe that his films deal with the real issues of the world. In this particular film, the believers of Christ are seen as good people, not judgmental. They care about their community and want the best for everyone. Pastor Brian (Marvin Winans) preaches a sermon that hits home for not only the congregation, but the audience that is viewing the film. He simply states that people are valuable and they are worth helping. Whatever one may be going through in his or her life, by their faith in God, He will surely see them through.
I Can Do Bad All By Myself is an ideal Tyler Perry movie. Madea may be the comedic relief in the film, however her wisdom and advice always points to God. Madea’s character is that of dramatic irony.
When the character speaks or acts in ignorance of the true state of affairs, the dramatic irony functions to create two separate meanings for each line of dialogue: (1) the meaning of the line as it is understood by the unenlightened character, and (2) the meaning of the line to the enlightened audience. (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 80)
At one point in the film, she was asked by, Jennifer (Hope O. Wilson) to teach her how to pray. Well, because Madea is known to put a twist on everything, she refers to the arc that Noah built as the “St. Louis Arch” and that David walked on water, to add to her comical scene she says “in Jesus’ name” to ensure her prayer made it up to Heaven. As humorous as this may sound and as wrong as she was, she had a valid point that she was trying to make; in order to prevent drowning in one’s own misery, one must keep their eyes on Jesus and not get diverted by those who do not have their best interest at heart.
Without Jesus Christ, there would be no salvation or any personal relationship with Him. “A little comic relief with Madea’s jumbled-up Bible stories keeps things from getting overheated and reminds us that life — and families — are always a jumble of good, bad, wicked, kind, and silly” (Winow, 2010). Though Madea’s doctrine was way off, even she understands and acknowledges that Jesus is the answer to everything. Perry uses Madea as the wise-old, no nonsense grandmother. Her wisdom is symbolic to elders who have been through the good and the bad times of life. “Characters are often used symbolically, and once characters become symbolic, the conflicts in which they take part become symbolic also” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 72).
In analyzing a film, the first step is to determine the theme. After the theme has been identified, then one can move onto “to a clearer and more specific statement of theme” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 405). In the film, the leading theme focuses on emotional effect or mood. The emotion that was missing from the main character April (Taraji P. Henson), was empathy. She had lost herself out there in the secular world; forcing all her morals and values to the back of her mind. “If we can see clear and logical relationships between each element and the theme or purpose, then we may assume that our decision about the film’s theme is valid” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 405).
Henson is a dramatic actor; she is the one who is usually loud and willing to put up a fight for what she believes in. The intensity of her character in the film is one of the best roles that I have seen her play. “Dramatic acting calls for sustained, intense dialogue with another person and requires an emotional and psychological depthâ€¦” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 329). She displays both emotional and psychological depth in the film. She is very emotional when she hears about the death of her mother and how she died “alone”. At another point, she displays her psychological connection with the fact that she “knew the look” on Jennifer’s face when her married boyfriend, Randy, tried to rape her. She knew this look all too well because that the same thing happened to her when she was younger.
After the validation of the theme has been accepted, the film’s level of ambition is the next step into an analysis of the film. In order to do this, one must try to envision what the director of the film wanted to portray. Not to say that we cannot put our own judgment on it, but we must be able to determine “at which level he or she was trying to communicate” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 407) before we make our objective or subjective evaluation.
April was a woman who had seen many adversities and faced many struggles in her life. She had an attitude that would make someone think that she is selfish, rude and cares about no one but herself. In order to keep that demeanor she had to keep everyone, to include her family, at a distance. A major moral implication within the film is that “we fall down, but we get upâ€¦a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up” (We Fall Down , 2007). All throughout the world, someone is facing a struggle and do not know when, where or how to get beyond it.
April is someone who delights in spending all night drinking and singing and all day sleeping. When her niece and nephews come to live with her, she is dismayed by the vision of raising three children. Nevertheless with support and encouragement from members of her mother’s church, lessons in love from Sandino (Adam Rodriguez), and real talk from her best friend Tanya (Mary J. Blige), April starts to trust that she is strong enough to do what is right by herself, her niece and nephews and her new beau.
Once we have established the theme and the level of ambition, the next step is to start the process of doing an objective evaluation. The question to keep in mind is “given the film’s level of ambition, how well does the film succeed in what it tries to do” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 407)? In all honesty, I truly believed that the film succeeded the motives and direction that it was written to take.
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Strength in the community is a huge asset for the films overall anaylsis. This day and age, it is very rare to find a community that is as helping and nurturing as the one on the film. From the beginning of the film to the very end, the community is helping each other. Madea could have gotten the three young children who broke into her home, locked up and possibly be put in foster care. Instead of turning them over for the police to deal with “she feeds them, scolds them, and delivers them to April, who has no interest in taking care of anyone, even herself” (Winow, 2010). She then has April to bring them over to her house to do a little cleaning. She wanted to teach them a couple of lessons; “no stealing” (Exodus 20:15) and “Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17b).
Perry is confident enough in this film that he allows great performers like Gladys Knight and Mary J. Blige to give further details about the film through their voices.
Perry also spices things up with two of his most reliable fallbacks: music, and Madea. Having packed his cast with singers, he allows them all a moment to shine, with songs that deliver his patented lessons (trust in yourself, trust in others, and trust in God). (Weitzman, 2009)
Perry taps into the primitive influence of gospel, blues, soul, and the black church in ways that makes the viewer appreciate the realities of life and most importantly, God, who is the author and finisher of all things. Perry’s choice of music in the film was exceptional and when heard again, can be related to the film. “Good music can rise above its material and live on outside of the film, long after the drama for which it was written has been forgotten” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 310).
Perry and his crew took the color wheel and added value to bring out the richness and depth of the film. The colors used in the film attracted the audience’s attention and was articulately done according to the scene. During the club scenes, were done with a “expressionistic use of color” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 236). The colors were dark, yet vibrant. The colors took the audience to experience the character’s innermost feelings. (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 236) April was hurting and scarred on the inside, yet she gave off the persona that she was happy.
I Can Do Bad All By Myself has so much value in it t hat reinforces the basic black American way of life. “The Motion Picture Production Codeâ€¦encouraged all American films to reflect and reinforce middle-class American institutions, values and morality” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, pp. 472-473). Perry’s choice of genre is unique, however it kind of emulates the genre of “screwball comedies”. Screwball comedies can vary from scary to hilarious. Directors that prefer to use the screwball comedies as their choice of genre, usually “contain underlying sameness (and universality) that is, finally, humanly comforting (as well as hilarious)” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 488). In the film, there are those scary moments, when Randy was trying to rape Jennifer. And of course there are those outrageously funny moments when Madea tries to teach Jennifer how to pray.
Motion pictures are not designed to change society, but can be seen as a “powerful instrument of social change” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 516). In the film, people from all walks of life can all together laugh and cry. There are times when something that goes on within the film will jog someone’s memory. It may be a positive memory or a negative one, whatever the case may be; they can see the outcome of the characters life and see that with prayer and faith, God can do positive things in one’s life.
There is no situation that goes on in anyone’s life that God cannot bless. All He asks for is that we come to Him and ask for help. “The motion picture’s power as a social force comes from its ability to pick up, amplify, and spread to society as a whole currents that already exists among segments of the population” (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, p. 516). Perry’s ability to portray what goes on in society today was exceptional. So many people will close their eyes on what is real and believe that certain things just do not exist. In the film, Perry shows the life of an alcoholic, adultery, child molestation/rape, death, love, faith, and most importantly a sinner coming back to Christ.
Throughout life, we have all ran into a Madea, April, Jennifer, and Randy. Although what they experienced in the movie may not be a direct reflection, however we can relate to certain parts of the film. On a personal note, I seen a little of myself in April’s character. I was never that selfish, but I had lost myself in the world allowing others to depict the way my life was going to go.
Pierced with messages that radiate empathy, mercy and vengeance, Perry’s films time after time explore an amusing over-the-top offering which keeps his audience in reality of things that go on in today’s society. Movies, regardless if it is a multi-million dollar film or a small independent film, the elements of it come together in order to guide the viewers through the climax of the story. Actors are usually the most visible elements; however there are many other facets of filmmaking that are incorporated in the movie in order to get the film finished for viewing.
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