Grace is an African American, middle-aged woman who divorced her first husband after he ran off with his young secretary. She’s the kind of woman who bakes cookies for children, teaches Sunday school and sings in the church choir.
But Grace, the main character in Tyler Perry’s Netflix film, “A Fall from Grace,” also has a tough side. We first see Grace, played by Crystal Fox, as she walks into a prison room, shackled, sad and disheveled. She has admitted to murdering her new, young husband and she’s meeting her public defender, Jasmine, for the first time.
After Jasmine’s colleagues convince her to fight for Grace instead of letting her take a plea deal, Jasmine discovers that Grace’s story isn’t as simple as it seems.
The tale that unfolds is mostly predictable, filled with stereotypical characters and a lot of clichéd lines about women that we’ve heard from Perry before in several of his films.
When Grace tells her friend Sarah, played by Phylicia Rashad, that she’s tired of living the single, chaste life, Sarah encourages her to go out and mingle. Here’s an example of where Perry’s dialogue fails to rise to the level of depth and nuance his female characters deserve.
“Age is a bitch darlin’,’” Sarah tells Grace. “It’ll sneak up on you. One day you’re all lovely lookin’ just like you. Young and lovely. Seem like the next day, you my age wonderin’ where all the time went.”
Sarah convinces Grace to attend a gallery exhibit where she meets Shannon, a tall, lean and muscular photographer.
It turns out Shannon isn’t the amiable, talented and kind artist he pretends to be when he and Grace first meet. But Grace, like so many of Perry’s single, mature women characters, is oblivious to her lover’s devilish ways.
After warming Grace up during their many fun, romantic and intimate dates, Shannon asks Grace to marry him after only a few months of courtship. It’s not long before Grace’s supervisor calls her into his office and accuses her of stealing over $300,000 from the company. Then she discovers that someone has signed a second mortgage on her home.
Surprise! Grace discovers that Shannon is the culprit. He’s been stringing her along the whole time just to steal her money and her home. Shannon lands the final, cruel blow when Grace finds him in their bedroom having sex with a much younger woman.
That’s when Grace snaps and bashes Shannon’s head with a baseball bat. Then, some plot twists happen that seem unbelievable and downright wacky.
Recently, Perry has famously bragged about writing his scripts solo, without any help from other screenwriters. He has had trouble finding writers who capture the specific voice of his characters, he says.
But the following lines that Perry wrote for Shannon to say to Grace don’t speak authentically about real women’s lives or depict them with the dignity they deserve.
“I’m just never gonna love you the same way you love me,” Shannon says. “Women your age — how does the phrase go? ‘Low hanging fruit.’ Single. Vulnerable. Lonely. F***in’ weak.”
Black women deserve better representation on screen than what Perry delivers here in “A Fall from Grace,” and it will take Black women screenwriters to help him get the job done.
Watch the official trailer below.