Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Deeds

Starring: Tyler Perry, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Brian White, Gabrielle Union
Director: Tyler Perry
Running Time: 110
Rating: PG-13

Believe it or not, I’ve never seen a "Madea" movie. Many people are in awe of Tyler Perry’s comedic genius, so I know I’m missing out. I chose to lose my Tyler Perry movie V-card to the dramatic but feel-good film that he wrote, directed and starred in: “Good Deeds.” I left the theatre with a new appreciation for life, a confirmation of Thandie Newton’s exceptional acting skills, and an admiration for Mr. Perry.

Wesley Deeds was born into a life of privilege. He is a fourth-generation Ivy League graduate, the CEO of his father’s company, and he’s engaged to a class-act with a bangin’ body (Gabrielle Union.) One might apply the lyrics of the classic Britney Spears song “Lucky” to this scenario – “if there’s nothing missing in HIS life, then why do these tears come at night?” Not that Deeds cries himself to sleep, but it’s obvious that he is unhappy. This life he was born into is, oddly enough, not the life he would choose to lead for himself.

After an unforgettable performance in “Crash” seven years ago, Thandie Newton stuns again as Lindsey, a widow raising her child under dire circumstances. She has one heartbreaking scene after another. We feel so much sympathy for this woman when we discover her husband died in Iraq, which forced her to drop out of nursing school to care for her daughter. This is a terrifying example of bad luck – it could honestly happen to anyone. We don’t know who to feel sorrier for: the child whose life is uprooted every day, or the mother who can’t stop the tethers from completely unraveling. Newton’s portrayal of a mother, a lover and a human being is beautiful, and reminds us of her underrated talents as an actress.

To Wesley, Lindsey is a breath of fresh air: she speaks to him in blunt, realistic terms – in such a way no one has ever spoken to him before. Things go from bad to worse in a matter of days for Lindsey, and Wesley’s first instinct is to help her. Though her pride stands in the way at first, she reluctantly accepts his help. We see that doing ‘good deeds’ for others is what truly makes Wesley happy. He is emotionally stagnant until the end of the film, when he chooses to lead the life he wants, rather than let someone decide for him.

Phylicia Rashad shines as an overbearing mother who favors Wesley over his angry and resentful brother Walter. Brian White plays this role with such intensity – there’s not one scene where his brow isn’t furrowed. His a-hole actions made me groan out loud several times. We don’t understand why Wesley puts up with his brother’s arrogance and general lack of consideration for anyone other than himself until a childhood memory is revealed.

This film gives us a peek into a scary world that many of us are unfamiliar with. As soon as the movie was over, I pulled out my cell phone to check for texts and Facebook updates, and immediately felt guilty. We should all pay more attention to the issues that plague the real world, rather than being so connected to the social media one. Though the “Madea” films are on my to-see list, I couldn’t have imagined a more fantastic introduction to the brilliance of Tyler Perry.

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