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'A Fall from Grace' review: Tyler Perry's Netflix debut is a mess

Crystal Fox and Mehcad Brooks in Netflix's "A

Crystal Fox and Mehcad Brooks in Netflix's "A Fall From Grace"(2020). Credit: Netflix/Charles Bergmann

THE MOVIE "A Fall from Grace"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming now on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Tyler Perry brings his empire to Netflix with "A Fall from Grace," his first original movie for the streaming giant. It's the story of a woman named Grace (Crystal Fox), who is accused of murdering her husband Shannon (Mehcad Brooks) and is defended at trial by the young lawyer Jasmine (Bresha Webb), despite Jasmine's boss Rory (Tyler Perry) repeatedly demanding that Jasmine convince Grace to accept a plea deal.

There's also the character of Sarah (Phylicia Rashad), who is Grace's best friend and factors heavily into the extraordinarily thin courtroom narrative scripted by Perry that nonetheless manages to digress into some really strange directions.

MY SAY Perry is one of the most prolific figures in show business and perhaps the closest modern equivalent to a classical Hollywood studio mogul that we have. He has been making entertainment that resonates with a significant audience for many years.

You wouldn't know any of that from watching "A Fall from Grace," however. It was filmed over the course of just five days, a far faster time frame than your average production, and it feels like it. The movie is hurriedly shot and assembled, as if Perry and his cast knew they were on the clock to get things finished as quickly as possible.

A slower schedule might have allowed for the actors to spend the time necessary to work on their incredibly awkward and stilted line readings, though there's only so much you can do with dialogue like, "Tears. I saw Miss Grace cry tears like I've never seen a guilty person cry yesterday."

It could have allowed for the courtroom scenes to be developed to where there's even a semblance of reality applied to the trial. As it stands now, the central drama in the movie feels like it's playing out on the set of an afternoon TV court show.

It might have also opened up the possibility of crafting an approach that actually attempted to use the tools of cinema to tell this story with images, rather than simply pointing the camera at the actors. Perhaps a little extra time could have resolved some major plot holes, as well.

The movie simply abounds with stock melodramatic thriller elements, from a clichéd score comprised of swirling strings and gentle piano, to the depiction of Grace and Shannon's whirlwind romance that suddenly turns sour.

The cheapness extends to the special effects, too. There's a scene in which Shannon proposes to Grace surrounded by what are supposed to be fireflies, it seems, but instead look like mushy yellow blobs.

Perry is too important of a figure in the business for his work to be simply dismissed out of hand. He deserves credit for giving a lead role to Crystal Fox, a veteran of significant talent who ought to get many more of them in better movies, and for telling stories that endeavor to connect with a seriously underserved audience.

But it's hard to seriously engage with a movie that is so transparently rushed into existence. 

BOTTOM LINE Tyler Perry's Netflix debut was filmed over just five days and it plays like a movie defined by that schedule more than anything else. It's a total mess.

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