Since the beginning of time, women have been dismissed as crazed or deranged, their emotions ridiculed and shoved aside as irrational or without merit. Though mental illness and unhealthy behaviors are certainly very real, women aren’t often allotted the space to tell their stories and to speak their truths without fear of backlash or being confined to some heinous outdated stereotype. In his new suspense thriller Acrimony, Tyler Perry sets the stage for one woman, Melinda Gayle (portrayed by Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson) to tell her story — a tale riddled with heartbreak and betrayal.
Beautifully shot in crisp, dark greys, the film opens in the aftermath of Melinda and her ex-husband Robert’s (portrayed by Lyriq Bent) marriage. It’s clear from her outbursts and enraged emotional state that Melinda is not dealing with the demise of her relationship well. Order by the courts to attend counseling sessions, a reluctant Melinda dials back time eighteen years and begins to piece together the romance between herself and Robert – which started in college and eventually led to the inside of a courtroom.
Henson, as usual, is intensely captivating as Melinda, her fury literally penetrates the screen as she relays the story of her relationship to her therapist and to the audience. Perry captures her various emotional states, slowly building to her current boiling point. Bent, who rose to prominence in the Saw franchise and who currently sizzles as Jamie Overstreet in Netflix’sShe’s Gotta Have It is also fantastic. The chemistry between the actors is very much that of two people who have spent nearly two-decades of their lives with one another.
Instead of forcing Henson and Bent to play younger versions of themselves, relative newcomers Ajiona Alexus (who plays young Cookie on Empire), and Antonio Madison are wonderfully cast as young Melinda and young Robert respectively. Their stellar performances with all of the levity, earnestness, and hope of youth created a steady foundation. They were also able to connect their characters seamlessly with Bent and Henson’s older version.
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