I don’t know about you, but when I go through the supermarket check-out line, I see magazine covers featuring celebrities I’ve never heard of. But as a moviegoer, I know the name Tyler Perry. Lots of people do. Heck, I know a guy who tells me that for Halloween he is dressing not as Frankenstein or Dracula, but as Medea.
Well, the Atlanta-based actor and writer and director of moral Blacksploitation movies has a new film out. It is called “The Single Moms’ Club,” and it has a lot of the features that three or so times a year have marked new Tyler Perry movies for over a decade.
It is about people with very common personal problems. It is set in Atlanta and has several stories intercut. Its villains have weak but existent motivations—in other words, they are not what I call “evil villains,” folks who are mean for no particular reason at all. Resolutions to the problems come when people talk to each other, and for no other reason. And race and class figure, but are not used as indicators of how good the characters are.
Most Tyler Perry movies have a rhythm. He prefers short scenes. First we’ll have some silly broad comedy. Then we have a scene where one character describes a problem, usually one widely discussed over the last twenty years or more.
Here let’s say actress Nia Long, a favorite collaborator of Perry’s says she feels bad that she is divorced, and that it makes her feel worse that her twelve-year-old son seems to blame her for having chased his father away.
Then we get a generalized statement of received philosophy. In this case let’s say Long’s confidant tells her that it isn’t her fault and that she needs to find ways to enjoy herself and to feel good about herself until her son comes around.
Then we get silly, broad comedy, and the cycle repeats. In the end of the film, problems are resolved, but usually not because anybody took any action. The characters were just good, and time made all the difference.
We have this cycle in “Single Moms’ Club.” But for some reason—and I suspect it is because we see so little of the different stories’ villains—the movie is more likable than have been many of Perry’s recent films. I’m not saying “Single Mom’s Club” is sophisticated or a break-through for its writer, director, and star. It isn’t. But it doesn’t have as many ugly elements as do most of Perry’s films.
The long suffering single moms are played by Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey (from “Bridesmaids”), Amy Smart (“Road Trip,” “Crank”), Zulay Henao (apparently for Spanish surname balance), and t.v. comedy specialist Cocoa Brown. Their characters meet when they are forced to serve as a committee organizing a dance fund-raiser for the private elementary school their kids attend.
Each woman is having trouble with her twelve-year-old and gets too little ex-spousal help. One mom was artificially inseminated, one has just lost some of her alimony and child support, one’s former partner is in prison, one has a jealous ex, and one has a drug addled one. We only see one of these dads.
At first there is some class-based friction between publisher ma and diner waitress ma. Oh, and the publisher has just refused the book manuscript of journalist ma. But almost immediately they are taking so much undramatized comfort out of their get togethers that they discuss (frequently, and without doing anything about it) starting a nationwide club of single mothers.
They do help each other out. They encourage each others’ romances. One romantic target is played by Terry Crews, who delivers much of the film’s comedy. And once a week or so, one mom will babysit all the kids so that the other four can go out together. Guess where they go? The fact that they go to see the Chippendales may suggest something about the class limitations of Perry’s imagination.
Eventually there’s a sort of rolling crisis when one kid runs away from the sleepover. Will everything come together for the big dance? What do you think?
Predictable and routine and surprisingly easy to like, “The Single Mom’s Club” gives Tyler Perry’s large audience what it seems to want. But as Perry doesn’t dress in drag for this film, I wondered if people would remember who Medea was when next Halloween rolls around.