A pontification on the eve of the release of Tyler Perry’s latest film, ‘A Jazzman’s Blues.’ Have I learned nothing?
OPINION: Am I still able to be fooled by a good trailer even if it comes from Tyler Perry? I think I am.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I think I’ve seen nearly every single movie that Tyler Perry has released. Some I’ve watched to be part of the conversation—A Fall from Grace, Why Did I Get Married, etc. Some I watch(ed) because, well, I actually enjoy(ish) them—The Family That Preys, Good Deeds, etc. It’s not that I think they’re very good; in fact, I’m on record as thinking most of Perry’s movies are pretty much bad to terrible. But I also watch a lot of bad-to-terrible films regularly. At one point, I even created a podcast called What If Tyler Perry had a Writers’ Room after he famously told us all that he wrote all of his own films and shows. The point of the pod was to see how the scripts (and ultimately the films) might have turned out if writers addressed the issues with his movies. Point is, I’ve watched a lot of Perry’s work intentionally.
Because I’m so well versed, I kind of know what to expect from his films. I don’t go into the movies looking for a seminal, artistic work that will change the way I look at relationships or the human condition. I do expect crater-sized plot holes, substantial bending of reality, stilted dialogue with high production value and a high potential for a bad wig or two. In that regard, I’ve almost never been let down. I still remember how much joy I got out of A Fall from Grace while watching with the rest of the Black social media community. After watching extras eat air, the literal worst legal proceedings ever by a paid attorney and a storyline that pretty much fell apart from the beginning, it was actually quite a joyful watching experience. I got what I expected and a few quotables that I continue to use to this day.
With that said, I find myself feeling slightly conflicted about his latest film, A Jazzman’s Blues, which will drop Friday on Netflix. Dare I say the trailer is really good? According to Perry, he wrote the screenplay back in 1995 or at least the foundation and premise for it. Curiously, he also said this: “I had to wait for the right time and be intentional—to build the studio, to build a space, to build a career, to make sure my own footing was sure so that I could go into ‘Jazzman.’”
I would love to know how A Fall from Grace or Nobody’s Fool (an actual terrible movie) helped pave the way for A Jazzman’s Blues. But if I’m giving grace then perhaps the thinking is that in order to tell the story he wanted to tell with A Jazzman’s Blues, he had to have everything exactly the way he needed it, something he couldn’t achieve unless he owned, operated and deployed every facet of production. I suppose that’s not inconceivable.
Based on the trailer and the description, it’s a love story that traverses decades, lives and life set in the Deep South, which obviously creates all types of tensions and problems, which, historically, is the kind of thing that I’d expect Perry to flub. Nothing about his catalog of films insists that his writing is built for historical accuracy or consideration. Now, that leaves a lot of room for entertainment so I’m here for it.
I have to say this as well: If this entire film was filmed at his studios, that joint will be INSANELY expansive. The set pieces look amazing. Even the costumes look wonderful. I’m watching this trailer like, will Tyler have one that all of us who love to criticize and prod for glaring problems might have to give credit to? The trailer gives me some hope. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. An optimist. A person who believes in the best of things. Maybe I watch too many movies on Tubi that star people who actually want to be credited as BirkinBag Betty and Trap Zach. Maybe the way I view movies has shifted so substantially that my perspective is different.
Or maybe the movie will be just like the rest and somebody cut a really good trailer. Maybe I’ll watch the movie and wonder just what in the world was he thinking since he attempted to yadda yadda yadda an entire plot point that renders the whole movie impossible (which has happened in a few of his films actually; Good Deeds comes immediately to mind. Thandie Newton’s circumstances actually were highly unlikely given that her husband died in the line of duty, but that’s another talk show.)
I don’t know. I’m hoping that I’ll watch A Jazzman’s Blues tomorrow (because I will watch it tomorrow) and be like, “Yo, y’all have to see Tyler Perry’s new movie, it’s amazing!” I expect to be like, “He couldn’t help himself. He just couldn’t stop himself from doing it, folks. Doggone it.”
The fact, though that I’m leaving plenty of space for the positive outcome speaks volumes. I don’t have many reasons to be optimistic but here I am. Wow, what a trailer.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).
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