Tyler Perry's Keeping Faith Alive at the Movies
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Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself made good at the box office coming in at the No. 1 spot with 23 million in ticket sales. But that’s no surprise. Perry’s family-focused films strike a cord with American audiences as they fall in love with his faith-filled stories featuring his hilarious, no-nonsense character Madea.
“What I found in plays is that this character—as irreverent as she is—is very disarming. She makes you very comfortable,” Perry explains. “So what I’ve used her as is as a tool to get people to laugh and relax so that I can talk about God, talk about faith, mention the name Jesus in my films. And it has worked; it’s served its purpose very well. I’ve seen lots of people who don’t go to church, who have no concept of God, who have never really thought about it, begin to change their lives because of something that was said in the film or something the character invited them to see.”
Sharing meaningful and uplifting stories on the big screen is what Tyler Perry’s all about. This time around he’s garnered help from an all-star cast, including Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami), Grammy winners Mary J. Blige and Gladys Knight.
I Can Do Bad All by Myself tells the story of an always drunk nightclub singer named April who is forced to take in her niece and nephews after they attempt to steal from Madea. Not used to caring for anyone but herself, April struggles with what to do about the kids. Realizing that her life is in a shambles, April begins to reevaluate her relationship with her married boyfriend and the love that her new tenant, Sandino, has for her and the children.
God is the Answer
Mary J. Blige, who plays nightclub owner and April’s best friend Tanya, related to the character of April the first time she read the script. Coming from a similarly troubled background, Blige understands April’s pain and frustration, and her ultimate redemption.
“I’ve lived the life that April lived. Mary J. Blige is April,” she says. “My whole story has been recovering from trials and tribulations … wanting to do better and be better for myself.”
Tanya doesn’t have a chance to recognize God in her life, but this isn’t the case for Blige.
“My personal faith is everything to me,” she says. “I can’t walk, live, breathe, or anything without it. I’m nothing without it. I mean nothing to this world without it. And I’m not going to live without it.”
Actress Taraji P. Henson is the talk of Hollywood these days, having worked along side stars such as Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Alfre Woodard, and others. Trained at the prestigious Howard University, Henson knows how to take on a role, to bring a character to life. She does a remarkable job with this role of a conflicted, self-seeking, insecure woman. As in all of Perry’s films, faith and love are at the center of the message, and Henson’s portrayal makes it a powerful one. When describing the I Can Do Bad All by Myself story, Henson explains what April really needed in her life.
“God is love. God represents love. That’s the greatest gift God gave to humans,” Henson says. “[April] hit her emotional bottom. She needed God.”
God's Handiwork in Family
In addition to the faith-filled message, this film also examines the role of family. As April ignores the needs of her niece and nephews, Sandino gives his love and support to them, as if they were his own flesh and blood. Tyler Perry’s movies usually tackle family issues offering audiences a chance to see reconciliation in the end. Gladys Knight, who plays a church elder who reaches out to April, acknowledges God’s handiwork in family.
“Somewhere along the way [Tyler Perry] brings all of those people together and let them know you need to get rid of these differences that you have, be forgiving and start back loving each other because that’s the bottom line,” Knight says. “We need each other, whether we want to admit it or not. Family was created for this world as a gift. But we’ve got to make sure that we take care of that gift.”
What is Real Love?
Reaching her breaking point, April begins to see that she can have a life full of love through Sandino’s example. Actor Adam Rodriguez plays the Colombian handyman living in April’s basement, and according to Perry, he knew how to act in the role because he is a sensitive guy in real life.
“So little good in life comes from being guarded,” Rodriguez says. “Personally, I’d rather be unguarded and work through whatever pain might come along from being hurt than to go through life being guarded and missing out on all of the good stuff that comes from being open…. It’s very hard to effect change when you’re living life in fear.”
To be able to truly live life, Rodriguez believes you have to learn how to love and be loved. With such a dark past, April isn’t quite sure how to do that. Circumstances strip away at her hard shell, and she eventually accepts real love.
“You have to be a leader in that sense more often than not because so many people in this world are afraid to be open and to be loving without expecting anything in return,” Rodriguez says. “When you do that and you do love freely, you give people the strength to want to do the same for others.”
The Take Away
The man behind the movie, Tyler Perry, sums up what he wants audiences to take away from I Can Do Bad All by Myself in one word.
“Hope. Just hope,” he says. The purpose of the film is to show that there is hope…. No matter what situation you’re going through or how you’re going through it, there’s hope.”
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