Film Review: ‘Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club’

'The Single Moms Club' Review Calls

The prolific Tyler Perry muses on the travails of single motherhood and the ongoing battle of the sexes in a surprisingly sharp and funny female-empowerment ensembler.

Five women from disparate walks of life find common ground as single parents in “Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club,” one of the best products to roll off the prolific multihyphenate’s Atlanta-based assembly line, largely absent the pandering humor and finger-wagging moralism that have bedeviled many of his earlier (if undeniably popular) efforts. Perry is by now a well-established brand who knows what his audience wants, but this gentle, touching and sometimes quite funny portrait of female solidarity (think “Waiting to Exhale” by way of “9 to 5”) manages to play to his base while simultaneously broadening it. Disenfranchised distaff moviegoers eager to prove Cate Blanchett’s Oscar speech right ought to line up in droves.

The film’s generally low-key, ingratiating vibe is reflected in Perry himself, who gives a nicely understated supporting performance here as a divorced father of two who ends up wooing one of the single moms of the title. Her name is May (Nia Long), a local newspaper reporter, aspiring novelist and mother to a 12-year-old son whose father is nowhere in sight. She and the other moms meet-cute in a parent-teacher conference organized by the elite prep school their children collectively attend. The kids have been caught hanging out on campus after school hours, smoking cigarettes and tagging the walls with graffiti, and have been placed on a kind of academic probation. But there’s a catch: As part of the disciplinary deal, the mothers must serve as the organizers for the school’s annual fundraiser dance. Thus the Single Moms Club is born.

Perry depicts the school as one of those idyllic, post-racial, post-classist oases of learning that now exist in some cities, and the mothers’ forced booster club comes to mirror it. This is probably Perry’s first cast to consist almost equally of black, white and Latino performers, whose characters run the gamut from the service industry to the executive suite — a canny but never calculating gesture that lends the movie a far greater breadth of human experience than is typically reflected by mainstream Hollywood.

Sometimes in the director’s movies (like last year’s abysmal “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor”), the personal and professional lives of the characters seem almost arbitrary, as if selected at random by Perry’s screenwriting software, and the actors themselves don’t quite seem to believe in what they’re playing. But the characters of “The Single Moms Club” are generally smarter, deeper and more fully thought through. They include starchy publishing exec Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey), so uptight that her posterior seems to be perfect-bound; wealthy, “Blue Jasmine”-ish socialite Hillary (Amy Smart), cleaned out by her lawyer hubby in a messy divorce; Esperanza (Zulay Henao), whose sleazy car-salesman ex (Eddie Cibrian) is trying to turn their daughter against her; and harried waitress Lytia (Cocoa Brown), who has three young kids at home and two grown ones in jail, and who is terrified of repeating the mistakes of her youth.

Perry draws some of these roles more fully than others. (And seriously, who in 2014 names a Latina character Esperanza Luego?) By far the richest and most affecting is Lytia, who’s played with tremendous depth of feeling by standup comic Brown as a woman who, hardened by a lifetime of bad decisions, overcompensates by raising her preteen son in an overprotective bubble and shutting herself off from the world (including a lovestruck suitor played by the joyful Terry Crews). Less effective is Jan, played by “Bridesmaids” alum McLendon-Covey in a more exaggerated comic register than the other characters, though her storyline does touch on one of the movie’s most pointed themes: the open discrimination mothers can face in the male-dominated 24/7 workplace. But when the five women share the screen, they have an easygoing, improvisational chemistry, and their conversations feel candid and knowing on matters of work, motherhood and the ongoing battle for gender equality.

Perry hasn’t fully divested himself of his bad habits — specifically, his penchant for reductive characterizations and tidy, third-act resolutions. If the women in “The Single Moms Club” are refreshingly complicated and lifelike, the men are almost uniformly sexist pigs, addicts and criminals, or else sensitive metrosexual helpmeets who seduce these single ladies with the promise of being everything the fathers of their children turned out not to be. None of which seems likely to bother Perry’s loyalists, or even some newcomers to the fold, who may be so delighted at seeing a movie transgress this many deeply ingrained Hollywood codes they won’t sweat the small stuff.

Perry, who hails from a theatrical background, has always had something of a rudimentary point-and-shoot directing style, with accompanying mid-’90s sitcom production values. But much like its characters, “Single Moms Club” has a looser, more lived-in feel to it, and there are subtle indications that, for Perry (collaborating here for the ninth time with Polish-born d.p. Alexander Gruszynski), the camera is no longer so foreign an object.

Film Review: 'Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club'

Reviewed at Regal E-Walk, New York, March 13, 2014. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 110 MIN.

Production

A Lionsgate release presented with Tyler Perry Studios of a Tyler Perry Studios/Lionsgate production. Produced by Tyler Perry, Matt Moore, Ozzie Areu. Co-producer, Jonathan McCoy.

Crew

Directed, written by Tyler Perry. Camera (widescreen, color, HD), Alexander Gruszynski; editor, Maysie Hoy; music, Christopher Young; music supervisor, Joel C. High; production designer, Eloise C. Stammerjohn; art director, Dane Moore; set decorator, Carol Bayne Kelley; costume designer, Johnetta Boone; sound (Datasat/Dolby Digital), Chris Durfy; supervising sound editor, Mike Wilhoit; re-recording mixers, Joe Barnett, Marshall Garlington; visual effects supervisor, Chris LeDoux; visual effects producer, Jason Sanford; visual effects, Crafty Apes; assistant director, Donald Murphy; casting, Kim Taylor-Coleman.

With

Nia Long, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Terry Crews, William Levy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ryan Eggold, Zulay Henao, Tyler Perry, Eddie Cibrian.

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  1. Emma Johnson says:

    I could not have been more disappointed by this movie: snails pace, no laughs, absurdly dry dialogue, no plot to speak of and throwaway characters. And it barely addresses the very real struggles of money and loneliness experienced by nearly all single moms. Bummer.

    I wrote about it here: http://www.wealthysinglemommy.com/crappy-week-tyler-perrys-single-moms-club-made-worse/

    • Ashley says:

      I couldn’t agree more! It’s been a long time since I’ve sat through a movie and looked at the clock more than the movie. I felt like it would never end. Thus movie should have premiered on Lifetime…

  2. Evita says:

    I am going with a single dad……………perfect!!!

  3. I TOTALLY send Wonderful “Congrats to Tyler” for this Most Important For this Most Needed Group of Powerful Single Women…out to Make a Difference in today’s Society!

  4. tanya crosby says:

    I say this movie and loved it. I thought he gave the characters good depth! None of his movies are meant to be “deep” but they hit human nature directly!! I guess if you have not been a single mom you can’ t get it!! Most of the bad reviews were written by men!!! Good job Tyler!!

  5. Rosalie Conyers says:

    Very good, I really enjoyed the movie. A must go flick.

  6. Anna Chambers says:

    I saw the movie and it was great to see that he stepped out and went in a direction that Hollywood has not addressed. This group of women is looked over continuously, but he stepped out on faith and brought it to the world’s attention. You can’t overlook them. I am so proud that he addressed it in a positive way. Good job Mr. Tyler Perry!!

  7. Roddy says:

    All Tyler perry ever wants to do is bash men! I’m all for equality but why does he have to make men bad guys always! I avoid his garbage, because I love and respect women of all walks of life and want equality but don’t categorize all men in one catagory!

  8. Reginawilliams says:

    The movie was heartwarming and sent a beautiful message for single mother’s all around the world.I loved the movie it was powerful and wonderful I love me some Tyler Perry

  9. TheMotherRising says:

    I have read several reviews and all by men. That does not mean that a man can not properly understand a single moms experience…for Tyler Perry has truly captured it. Where people may view the actresses as not fully engaging in their character, they have been mistaken. The depth of feelings embodied in these characters is immensely more than one might view; however, if you have experienced the life of a single mom, then you surely know them to be fully immersed in their character. Will write more on my own website: http://www.themotherrising.com . As far as I am concerned..BRILLIANT! Thank you, thank you, thank you to Tyler Perry and the cast and crew for bringing to light so many issues…and for inspiring hope, joy, love and freedom.

  10. jennifer says:

    Thought it was an excellent movie. Bring Kleenex.

  11. rgold02 says:

    I am looking forward to seeing this movie!

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