I hate to say it, but the trailer and poster for Acrimony tricked me into thinking it might be better than it is. Congratulations, Tyler Perry marketing team. I’m going to attempt to untangle what exactly the point of Acrimony actually was, but it’s safe to say it doesn’t handle any of what it attempts well.
In a nutshell, Melinda (Taraji P. Henson) is short tempered and bad at making decisions or being assertive, and she falls in love with Robert (Lyriq Bent) who is a genius engineer but has bad luck, bad business skills, and is super selfish. Their romance and marriage is tumultuous and toxic from second one, and neither character is likable. Nor are any of the supporting characters. I also don’t think Tyler Perry knows much about how the legal system, real estate, technology, or the human body works. Did I mention this movie sort-of has a sci-fi subplot? It’s real dumb! Stay tuned.
Director: Tyler Perry
Release Date: March 30, 2018
Let’s start with what I thought this movie would be about. I guessed that a mentally disturbed woman was in love with a man she either didn’t actually know or didn’t know very well, and had fabricated an entire relationship with him. When she discovers he’s marrying someone, she snaps. The whole sequence on the therapist’s couch is after she’s done something terrible to him and is telling her distorted version of events, and the movie would end with the therapist explaining what had actually happened. The poster represents her as Medusa because her head is full of twisted, venomous thoughts. Like Medusa, she’s incapable of looking at herself in the mirror because facing reality would destroy her.
COMPLETELY WRONG. My 12th grade English teacher would be delighted at how much non-existent symbolism I pulled out of my own ass trying to interpret the film’s marketing. I even thought the scenes after the big bad event were signaled by her terrible mental institution haircut that’s reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s in Girl, Interrupted.
Nope! She apparently got that haircut on purpose. I’m curious as to what Taraji did to piss off whatever stylists Tyler Perry keeps on retainer.
The movie starts with Melinda getting a restraining order against her, so it kind of self-spoils her going off the deep end. She’s required to see a therapist, and here we get the frame story that allows Melinda to narrate almost the entire movie. I assumed this was because they’d pull an unreliable narrator situation, where her version of events aren’t what actually happened. That was expecting too much, and as far as I can tell she word-for-word tells the truth about everything, because the therapist-couch-narration thing ends before the movie does, and we end up in exactly the scenario she laid out.
The actual timeline of the film is fairly confusing, but it tells the story of Melinda and Robert Gayle’s awful 90’s college romance through their also awful marriage. Melinda seems batshit from the get-go. They first meet in college by bumping into each other on a rainy day and both dropping their papers, which get mixed up. Any normal movie would have this be a meet-cute situation, but Melinda FREAKS OUT and punches him and runs away like a complete fucking spaz. He somehow finds this endearing, and returns her paper, and they start dating.
Robert reveals he’s poor and lives in an RV, but has dreams of being a mechanical engineer and has an idea for a ‘self charging battery’ that’s never fully explained, but the movie makes it sound like it’s essentially a means of unlimited power. He names it ‘Gayle Force Wind’ because his last name is Gayle and this movie is fucking terrible. Melinda’s mom dies and leaves her 350 grand and her house, and so begins Robert’s selfish mooching.
Robert roundabout guilts Melinda into buying him a car, and then IMMEDIATELY cheats on her with some rando. Melinda drives up to his RV and sees the standard Titanic-hand-on-the-window sex going down, and proceeds to ram the RV with her Jeep. Robert and his hookup end up unscathed, but Melinda rammed the RV so hard that her ovaries exploded. HER OVARIES EXPLODED.
Anyway, they get married. Why? Because they’re both not-at-all believably written human beings. They are characters fully formed of red flags. Almost the whole rest of the movie is them being shitty to each other while Melinda works her life away supporting Robert while he works on his magic battery. It time-jumps 20 years and he’s STILL working on the battery, apparently never having gotten a job. He’s also only ever tried to sell the battery to exactly one local company. The local company only lets people demo technology via a lotto system, so even though he’s seemingly found a way to produce unlimited energy, they’re like ‘LOL GOTTA WAIT YOUR TURN! We apparently value our lotto system over completely revolutionizing the global energy system.’
Lo and behold, remember the rando he banged that Melinda popped her ovaries over? She now works at the energy company! And I guess her name is Diana! I couldn’t really nail down what she actually did for the company, but she gets Robert his long-awaited interview. He’d recently started working for Melinda’s sisters’ food delivery business, and he fucks them over by abandoning an important delivery to rush to the interview. He presents his magic battery (which I’m 100% certain is a fog machine with some old GeForce cards hot glued to it) and they offer him a flat $800k for full ownership of it.
In what’s probably the single logical decision in the entire film, he declines the insulting offer and heads home. Melinda and her whole family lose their shit, because he bailed on a ton of money and their company is screwed because of him. They ALSO think he’s cheating on Melinda because Diana dropped her wallet in his delivery van when they met to discuss his magic battery. Even though that was easily a month ago and she somehow never noticed? Anyway, Melinda demands a divorce, and Robert is out on his ass.
Flash forward through a bunch of pointless nonsense, and Diana has taken Robert in and somehow finagles him a new deal with the company. I have literally no idea how much time passes because it feels like it’s next week and he shows up to give Melinda 10 MILLION DOLLARS. TEN MILLION. She’s suddenly incredibly rich, but that’s not enough. She gave up her youth for Robert’s dream, and she’s pissed that Diana will now get the life she worked her ass off for, but technically has no claim over since all deals were signed post divorce.
Despite paying off all her debts and getting the house she lost back, she goes into a jealousy/rage spiral. After a sequence where she obsesses over Robert and Diana on social media, she sets her Hue bulbs to red, does a weird dance, and then kills them. JK, she just gets hammered and cyberbullies the shit out of Diana.
She also melts her wedding dress with acid. Why a jug of acid instead of like some ink or takeout spaghetti or anything more practical? Who knows?
Robert and Diana get a restraining order, and during the trial Melinda finds out that Diana is pregnant, which does not sit well with her exploded ovaries. She has a freakout on what looks like the North Korean version of Facebook Live and has her ass hauled out and just….let go.
Wait, why is her username Mel2022? Is that the year? Is this part set slightly in the future? This movie’s timeframe is very confusing.
Here’s where the therapist-couch framing device ends, with Melinda essentially telling the therapist to go fuck herself and leaving.
Robert and Diana get married, and go honeymoon cruising on their fancy new yacht with way too many staff members. Melinda, who has since fixed her hair, somehow Feivel’s her way onboard, makes his crew walk the plank, then shoots Robert and chops him with a fire axe in a strangely unspecified way. She then gets accidentally dragged underwater by an anchor and drowns. Roll credits.
I guess Robert probably survived? I didn’t stick around for a post-credits scene, but unless it was Poseidon taking pity on her and resurrecting her as a malevolent scorned-woman demigod, I don’t really give a shit.
There’s no real conclusion to any of the plot threads. It turns into a lowkey slasher for the last stretch and now Melinda is dead. Robert’s probably alive, so aside from recovering from his injuries, he didn’t really get any comeuppance. Melinda just came off as a psychopath, and since she was given an exorbitant amount of money that he wasn’t legally required to give her, he’d already sort-of made amends for the years of mooching.
My takeaway is that Tyler Perry seems to believe that the mentally ill shouldn’t pursue help, and their families shouldn’t suggest it. They should be seen as evil, and they deserve to die. Melinda’s behavior was extremely toxic, but Robert was also extremely selfish, so I think the only person who came out sort of clean was Diana? Was she the protagonist? Every character was so unlikable that it was just 2 hours of shitty people being shitty to each other. What was even the purpose of this story? It has no moral punchline.
On a technical level, the movie’s a mess, too. It was supposedly filmed in Pittsburgh, but all exterior shots that are identifiably Pittsburg are (horribly) greenscreened in. The chunk of the film that takes place in the 90s made zero effort to look like the period, except for an old tape deck and a landline. For the present-day portion, sequences involving social media all look more like poorly done powerpoints than actual websites. No effort was made to denote passage of time, either, aside from the 20 year jump where they switch actors. Certain scenes may have taken place weeks or years apart and it was impossible to tell.
Performance-wise, everyone was amateur-hour except for Taraji P. Henson and Lyriq Bent, who were mercifully our two leads for most of the movie. They did their best with horribly written characters. Henson has being piiiissed down to a T.
Still, this movie isn’t even fun bad, it’s just a waste of time.