Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Not Easily Broken

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sexual references and thematic elements
Profanity:Some mild language
Nudity/Sex:Some sexual references including prostitution, marital frustration, and adultery
Alcohol/Drugs:Social drinking
Violence/Scariness:Car accident, character injured, tense confrontations
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:January 9, 2009
DVD Release Date:May 7, 2011

This week’s release of T.D. Jakes’ “Jumping the Broom” is a good time to take another look at his earlier film about marriage and in-laws, “Not Easily Broken.”

If we believe the movies, the tough part of relationships is getting to the “I dos.” Everything after that is some vaguely imagined “happily ever after.” But “Not Easily Broken,” based on the popular novel by preacher T.D. Jakes, is frank from its very first moments that “happily ever after” requires a lot of work and a lot of prayer. It starts where most movies end – with the wedding. Before pronouncing them husband and wife, the minister tells Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) and Dave (Morris Chestnut) that life will try to knock them down and they will need to hold on to each other and their faith in God to stay together. He says there are three strands in a marriage – the bride, the groom, and God and that they must honor all three to keep the bond strong. But the newlyweds will not fully understand what that means until they learn some very hard lessons. Or, as one character says, “You’ve got to let life turn you upside down so you can learn how to live right side up.” Dave struggles with disappointment. He once hoped to play professional baseball but was injured and ended up working in construction. Now his greatest satisfaction comes from coaching a team of young boys and from his hopes for having children. Clarice struggles with pride and selfishness. Her ambition at work puts a lot of pressure on their relationship. Both of them feel neglected and dissatisfied. And then things really get bad. Clarice is badly injured in an automobile accident when Dave is driving. Her physical and emotional recovery is painful and it puts even more stress on the marriage, especially when her mother (the great Jennifer Lewis) moves in with them to help out. Unlike this season’s other movie about marital struggles, “Revolutionary Road,” this film makes no pretence of sophistication and has no literary aspirations. But its lack of subtlety turns out to be one of its strengths. Its narrative force is grounded in an emotional sincerity and open spirituality that creates an instant connection to the audience and deepens as the story unfolds. And it is good to see a film that is completely at ease in portraying the church as a sustaining force in the life of is characters and community. The movie also benefits from two exceptionally talented and appealing performers in the lead roles. Henson is an actress of such extraordinary range that audiences might not realize she is the same person who played the warm-hearted adoptive mother who ages over decades in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” half of an all-female team of hired killers in “Smokin’ Aces,” and the tough-talking woman with the enormous Afro and microscopic miniskirts in “Talk to Me.” Here Henson plays what is in some ways her most challenging role to date because her character is not an extreme one. She has to make Clarice careless and inconsiderate without losing our interest in making sure she is happy. Henson makes it work and makes us see why Dave loves Clarice even when he is not sure he still does.Chestnut (who also executive produced) has been too often relegated to “best friend” roles in big films (“The Game Plan”) and leading roles in smaller films (“The Perfect Holiday”). He is the essence of a leading man, a superbly gifted actor with effortless star power. Chestnut brings a depth and complexity to Dave that goes far beyond the script. Indeed, he makes Dave so sympathetic that he comes close to throwing the story off-balance by making it seem that Clarice is responsible for most of the couple’s problems. But Chestnut’s ability to make Dave’s integrity and devotion palpable shows us why the couple’s bond is important and, though often stretched, not easily broken.Parents should know that this film’s theme is marital discord. It includes some crude sexual references including prostitution and adultery, drinking, drug references, and a car accident with serious injuries. Family discussion: Why was it so difficult for Dave and Clarice to discuss their feelings? If you like this, try: Tyler Perry movies like “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” and other films about marital communication like “Divorce American Style” and “Period of Adjustment”



  • Dustin Putman

    Hi Nell–
    Almost skipped this film, wasn’t expecting much, and was very surprised how much I ultimately enjoyed it. It was certainly a step up from Notorious, Bride Wars and The Unborn!

  • jestrfyl

    OK, I am convinced this film is worth more than a casual glance. Rev Jakes and I have some significant differences in our respective theologies. But I cannot help but stand in awe and wonder at some of the things he has produiced, and the way people respond to them. He has a deft but sure touch with some difficult issues.
    I would add this thought…There are indeed three parties in a marriage. But I would argue that they are the Bride, the Groom, and the Couple. The covenant they make, which is given voice in the vows, is to their relationship, the larger party to which they are both promising fidelity. God’s role is different and significant, but not the same. Making the wedding neither about the bride nor the groom, but about their new relationship (Good Biblical foundation for this, too) changes the whole tone and attitude toward the wedding ceremony, and the reception (which by rights ought to be the lesser concern of the whole day, but that may simply reflect my professional prejudice).

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