"Why Did I Get Married?" is Tyler Perry's best screen effort to date, which is to say it's comfortably mediocre instead of criminally intolerable.
Four couples, Terry (Tyler Perry) and Diane (Sherry Leal), Patricia (Janet Jackson) and Gavin (Malik Yoba), Marcus (Michael Jai White) and Angela (Tasha Smith), and Mike (Richard T. Jones) and Shelia (Jill Scott), gather together every year for a vacation to clear their heads. Now in the snowy Colorado Mountains, the couples find this year to be their most explosive, with everyone's dirty laundry aired out over the course of the hellish week, ending friendships and marriages. With their lives now scattered, the couples do their best to revive their love, only to find they might be better off apart.
2007's "Daddy's Little Girls" brought mogul/filmmaker Tyler Perry to his lowest point. Not only was the feature a cancerous, socially irresponsible catastrophe, it was greeted with his lowest box office grosses yet. Perhaps the diminished reception of "Girls" played a subconscious role in the creation of "Married," because this film shows incredible growth on Perry's part as a storyteller and director.
Perry loves to play with stereotypes and melodrama. They are his preferred tools to fashion his string of plays, cinematic efforts, and television forays (the excretal "House of Payne"). "Married" is another slice of obvious to fit snugly in Perry's oeuvre, playing broadly to his core audience with an expected buffet of obnoxious characters and "Guiding Light" plotting. However, there's a spark to "Married" that's never revealed itself in the filmmaker's work before. Dare I call it maturation?
For the first time, Perry is writing intimate drama, and when the attention stays put between the characters as they engage in marital combat, the results are engaging. Perry is actually allowing his writing some authentic humanity for once, especially in the Shelia character -- an overweight, humiliated woman fighting to retain her self-respect in the gale force wind of her husband's obscene wickedness. Perhaps this is Perry working with strong actors for a change or the tighter focus given to the story, but I was stunned to witness the filmmaker treat select moments with sincerity and respect, instead of his traditional route, which is to take a water spray bottle and scold empathy out of the room.
Now, all is not well with "Married." While I'm thrilled to see Perry slowly inch away from overbearing religious overtones (God only gets a few shoutouts here), using said overtones to justify spousal ultraviolence, and a general spread of easy answers, he does allow his attempts at comedy to stop the film cold. Dishing out borderline offensive depictions of homosexuals (dressed in lavender, lispy, and carrying a miniature dog) and Caucasians (depicted as fearful of African-Americans and all white-privilege complainy), Perry throws a wet blanket on his work by permitting such inanity. Characters such as Mike (a one-note jerk) and Marcus (a one-note moron) also demonstrate that Perry can't trust his heart and write thoroughly demanding portraits of spousal misdeeds. All too often, he'll cut right to cartoon for the easy way out.
The AVC encoded presentation (1.85:1 aspect ratio) has the benefit of working with Perry's warmest color palette, showcasing a frame teeming with rich hues and welcome getaway interiors. The golden look flows throughout the film, keeping the picture evocative with a clean feel of the locations and sets. Environmental changes are well cared for, working superbly with snowbound sequences. Detail is strong, best with facial reactions and costuming nuances. Shadow detail is supportive, making an impressive impression during low-light scenarios. Skintones are heightened, but attractive.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is most effective with dialogue exchanges, following the tightly wound script along as each character spews their bile. Separation is tight, with each actor allowed clarity to encourage their performance. There's little here that adds surround dimension, but environmental changes are carefully measured, along with soundtrack cuts that come in to gently goose the mood. The overall effect is lush and purposeful, though never highly active. A Spanish 2.0 mix is also included.
English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
"Janet Jackson: Return of an Icon" (6:38) spotlights the superstar, who finally found some time in her busy schedule to collaborate with Perry to bring this script to the screen. Interviews with cast and crew reinforce the sense of awe that followed Jackson around the set.
"Reflections on Getting 'Married'" (7:00) talks to cast and crew about the thematic intent of the story, with Perry looking to reach out to a larger audience by scripting universal truths about matrimony.
"The Music of 'Married'" (8:35) interviews Aaron Zigman, who composed the score for the film. From intent to orchestra, the composer walks through his process, helped along with some scoring stage footage highlighting the work of the musicians.
"'Married' Rides the Rails" (4:44) isolates the effort to sell an argumentative sequence set on a train, following co-producer Roger Bobb, who found a real Amtrak route to use.
"The Guys of 'Married'" (5:50) covers the efforts of the male cast members, chatting up perspective and effort.
"The Girls of 'Married'" (4:53) takes on the opposite sex, offering a new round of platitudes for the female members of the ensemble.
"Winter in Whistler" (4:09) heads to Canada, where the cast and crew were floored by the natural beauty of the land, but soon found themselves forced to create a little weather of their own when the snow wouldn't cooperate.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
"Why Did I Get Married?" has so much to say about interpersonal communication, trust, and fidelity, and certainly Tyler Perry is sneaking closer to making a film about adults with a sophistication his previous product was violently lacking. It's still thwarted by Perry's comfort zones, but it is an improvement.