Produced, Written, and Directed by Tyler Perry
January 17, 2020
With the body missing, an older woman confesses to the murder of her young husband but a novice attorney defending her soon learns not all is as it seems.
I went into this film a little hesitant. It was a Tyler Perry movie after all, and I was more familiar with his reputation than his actual work. I think the only Tyler Perry film I have seen to date is Alex Cross and I cannot remember anything from that movie. I expected something much sillier than what ended up on the screen.
This Netflix movie starts a little slow but ends strong enough with an entertaining twist at the end. Unusually enough in my opinion, the film really picks up steam when it gets to the courtroom. For me that is usually the point that things slow down in a story. Courtroom dramas can get a little plodding. The pacing here though is pretty good as we get the backstory of the titular Grace Waters (Crystal Fox) while she awaits trial, but it really hit its stride when the proceedings start. Part of the surprise in this film is that everything is not cleared up with some big courtroom reveal. In fact, towards the end of the film Grace looks as if she is heading to the slammer.
Crystal Fox is sympathetic as the divorcee Grace who stumbles into what she thinks is love with a charming younger man. She is swept off her feet by dashing photographer Shannon DeLong (Mehcad Brooks) after meeting him at a showing of his work. Grace insists on her guilt in the beginning despite a lack of a body and the mounting details of the story that she tells idealistic public defender Jasmine Bryant (Bresha Webb). Webb does better than most as the crusading lawyer. Too often they turn the do gooder lawyer into a secular saint, but Jasmine is much more human here though her husband Jordan (Matthew Law) is a bit too good to be true. Nobody is that great and understanding.
You get a clear picture of Grace and what she went through and just how vulnerable she was to everything. Grace is a sympathetic character from the get-go, but you understand her so much better after the film which is told in a large amount of flashbacks. They manage to make hern into a well rounded individual.
You also get a good feeling of the uncaring forces that are against Grace. There is the prosecutor’s office that just wants to make this go away and get onto the next case. There is the public defender’s office that being underfunded and seeing the basic facts as they know them sees no real hope and just wants to check it off their list as well. These two forces are going against a woman who has been broken by the events of her life. She had settled into a comfortable if not slightly lonely reality only to have it up ended by being swept off her feet and then it all fell apart in a way far worse than it had last time.
Felicia Rashad as Sarah Miller/Betty Mills was rather surprising in this film. For the majority of the film she is exactly what you would expect her to be but her turn at the end is not only natural for the character but a surprise for what she is best known for. I was impressed by her at the end of the film. She is very cold and calculating.
One of the best parts of this film is how everything ties together from the opening moments of the movie to the resolution of the storyline. They do a mental montage for the main character showing how all the clues that were left for the audience during the film connect and you realize the complete answer was slapping you in the face the whole time. I figured out some of it, but the totality escaped me. There is one moment that they use as a clue, but I still do not get it. I will not be specific on it because it does not really harm anything, but I still do not see what they were getting at by using it.
I do feel the need to point this out. The police officer husband Jordan during the finale received a call that in an instant let him realize that his wife was in serious danger. He gets this call in the midst of an arrest and understandably hurries off to go help his wife, but he has just handcuffed a suspect and leaves the guy where he found him. That is it. And then during the finale he does it again with Sarah Miller/Betty Mills. Sarah Miller/Betty Mills is one of the big bads of the whole film and he just puts her in a pair of handcuffs and leaves her next to an open door. It is a questionable action at best. If it had occurred in a film from the 80s it would have been an obvious set up for a sequel and could be just that here. It is not even as if there is questionable logic on how Sarah Miller/Betty Mills gets away. No shock that she disappeared from the scene because it is obvious that they JUST WALKED AWAY! I half imagined at this point just before the closing credits we might get a shot of the previously cuffed criminal running across the screen still in handcuffs.
Some have complained about boom microphones in shots and continuity errors. I do not recall seeing any microphones in shots and that is something I usually catch. Maybe I was more invested than most in the film. The closest I can come to a continuity error was the reported location of one character during the implied death told during the flashback shifted during the narrative at that moment with no explanation but that was the only one I caught.
A Fall from Grace is less about the suspected murderer Grace than it is about the young lawyer Jasmine and her doubts about doing what she is doing as a profession and being sent to the prison initially to simply dot and cross the letters to get this case off the table and move on. She is so filled with doubt that she considers giving up being a lawyer completely because she just sends people to jail. While questioning what she is doing is a good idea it is a bit of a jump for her to want to give up law completely. There are other types of lawyers that would not even touch a criminal. Being a lawyer is not like being a priest. It is not all or nothing.
The film does feel a little rough. Reportedly the shoot was around five days and it definitely shows. The takes used in the end product do not feel as polished as one might expect though the acting is good. I am guessing most if not all were the first take. I am unsure why the production was so rushed.
A Fall from Grace despite its flaws is a good film. While not perfect it is a good drama with engaging characters and an entertaining story. Watch it!