Tyler Perry’s latest film is more traditional and with a more consistent tone than his “Medea” movies, but it has his trademark trio: sincerity, spirituality, and story. And if he passes on that other “s” — subtlety, that’s all right. Reminiscent of the classic Hollywood melodramas filled with financial, romantic, and family anguish, this is the story of two families, one white and wealthy, one black and poor, and the many ways they interact — in business, in friendship, in love, and in battle.
Both families are headed by strong, determined single mothers. Charlotte (Kathy Bates) is the matriarch of the wealthy Cartwright family and holds the controlling shares in its construction business. Her closest friend is Alice (Alfre Woodard), the owner of a run-down diner who is always willing to give a free meal and clean clothes to someone who needs help. Charlotte’s son William (Cole Hauser) wants to take over the family business, with or without his mother’s approval. Alice has one daughter Pam (Taraji P. Henson) who works in the diner and another one (Sanaa Lathan as Andrea) who has a degree in finance and a lot of ambition. She works directly with William and both sisters’ husbands are construction workers for Cartwright with dreams of starting a firm of their own.
Writer/director/star Perry (he plays only one role this time, Pam’s husband) takes on big themes and big drama: sex, love, death, betrayal, and corporate takeovers, but all presented with heart and sincerity and a firm and genuinely inspiring devotion to God and to doing for others. It is sheer pleasure to watch Bates and Woodward take on these roles. On a road trip (“Like Oprah and Gayle!”) or in a boardroom, tucking bills in the thong of a male stripper, confronting heartbreak, counting blessings, they keep us watching and caring.