If you are looking for a fresh, surprising and ambitious thriller to kickstart your year – you will have to look further than A Fall From Grace. While there’s certainly enough high-octane material here to shock in some places, Tyler Perry’s spooky thrill-ride utterly fails to deliver a cohesive, credible package for the audience.
We open on an elderly woman screaming from the rooftop of a suburban house – so not that high, but high enough to not survive the fall – before she jumps to her death. This woman is never mentioned again – apart from a very late and very unimportant shoe-horned remark. It’s almost as if Perry isn’t paying attention to his characters at all.
After the first scene, A Fall From Grace focuses on a young lawyer, Jasmine (Bresha Webb), who is tasked with defending a woman accused of murdering her husband (that’s the titular Grace, played by Crystal Fox). Grace is determined to plead guilty. Jasmine reluctantly takes on the case, and begins by accepting Grace’s decision, but as she investigates, the savvy litigator quickly discovers that there is much more to this story.
From there, Grace does a fair amount of talking, as the two women get to know each other in the prison interrogation room. Jasmine asks Grace what happened, what she wants, why she’s so determined to give up. Grace gives Jasmine and the audience the lowdown on her whirlwind romance with the younger man – a charismatic artist – who became the husband she allegedly beat to death. The plot then unfolds in a clinical and familiar fashion with flashback sequences – clunky and lacking any cohesion. Unexciting visuals, noticeably bored extras and a bland, stuffy script – letting a qualified young lawyer read lines such as, “I’m educated, and I’m smart”, and allowing her boss to shrug and say, “I guess it’s a millennial thing” – all contribute to a dull viewing experience.
The writing is done few favours by the fact that each actor merely waits for their turn to speak while fidgeting mechanically, rather than acting like human beings. Seldom do two people genuinely engage with each other – blame generic editing and a lack of emotional intelligence, social awareness, or, well, any sense of authenticity regarding how real-life people actually behave.
Filmed in just five days on-set at an Atlanta studio, A Fall From Grace is dominated by a score that Netflix will no doubt subtitle as ‘suspenseful music’. At the same time, Perry’s camerawork is shaky, allowing only for a muted colour scheme and rarely purposefully framed. As a whole, the film is little more than a hot mess. It tries to subvert the tired format of a white, tame murder-mystery story – not an unimportant task – but isn’t anywhere near sharp enough to achieve its goal.
- Director: Tyler Perry
- Starring: Crystal Fox, Phylicia Rashad, Bresha Webb
- Release date: 17 January 2020