×

Film Review: Tiffany Haddish in ‘Nobody’s Fool’

Who needs Madea when you've got Tiffany Haddish? She's furious and funny but the one spark of life in Tyler Perry's droopy romantic drama.

Director:
Tyler Perry
With:
Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Whoopi Goldberg, Amber Riley, Mehcad Brooks, David Arveson, Missi Pyle, Jon Rudnitsky, Nev Schulman, Max Joseph.
Release Date:
Nov 2, 2018

Official Site: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8097306/

It’s probably no coincidence that Tyler Perry chose this week, just days before the release of his latest film, “Nobody’s Fool,” to make the announcement that he is planning to retire Madea, the rowdy, blaring, acid-tongued, tiny-pistol-toting church lady from hell who will dress down anyone under the Atlanta sun who crosses her. The madly exuberant matriarch, who will be making her final screen appearance in 2019, has always been the spark plug — the anarchic TNT — of Perry’s comedies. And that makes you wonder: Will he now be looking for surrogate performers to replace that energy?

Of course he will — and, in fact, he has already found one. In “Nobody’s Fool,” Tiffany Haddish, with her unchecked rage and triumphant lewd abandon, plays the first Tyler Perry character who could stand glare to glare, threat to threat, uncorked insult-from-the-hood to uncorked insult-from-the-hood to Perry’s gale-force grandma in drag. She’s like Madea as a young criminal scamp (a movie I’ve always thought Perry should make). But in “Nobody’s Fool,” Tiffany Haddish is just furious and funny enough to make you wish that the rest of the movie wasn’t a droopy romantic comedy without the comedy.

She plays Tanya, the abrasive, ne‘er-do-well, shoot-off-her-mouth ex-con sister of Danica (Tika Sumpter), an impeccably groomed and status-conscious New York advertising executive who tries to control every single aspect of her life in a way that’s so stultifying you realize the only place you’ve ever seen a character this inhumanly meticulous and over-organized is in a paint-by-numbers movie. But when Sandra Bullock used to do this sort of thing, it was meant as a joke. Tika Sumpter, with android hair parted down the middle and a smile that flicks on and off like a faulty neon sign, is dead serious playing a woman who needs to wake up from illusions that the audience can see through in 30 seconds.

Early on, she goes to retrieve Haddish’s Tanya, a former crack addict and petty criminal who’s getting out of prison after having served five years. When Danica shows up, Tanya is already banging a stranger in the parking lot, and Haddish just takes off from there. “All this s—t is yours?” she asks Danica after one look around her designer apartment, where she’s planning to crash. “You didn’t have to give up your ass?” In “Nobody’s Fool,” it’s that insistence on the ho’s-eye-view of the world that gives Haddish’s line readings their nasty combative edge. Her Tanya is ignorant and domineering, selfish and lusty, and proud of it. It’s all a survival tactic (you can’t put someone down who’s already done the work for you), but Haddish turns hood ‘tude into a form of verbal hellfire. Like Madea, she’s an agent of chaos, though in this case her main function is to smash open the contrivances of the plot.

Each morning, before going up to her office, Danica stops into a coffee place owned by Frank (Omari Hardwick), the bearded and gentle-eyed chivalrous dreamboat behind the counter, who always gives her a free coffee (and, sometimes, a rose) and wastes no time helping her out by hiring Tanya as a barista. But Danica, you see, already has a boyfriend — a man named Charlie she met on-line and has been “dating” for a year, even though she’s never laid eyes on him. He works on an oil rig, and keeps telling her that there’s no wi-fi out there; he can’t even talk to her on Skype. Clearly, there’s something wrong with this picture, but it takes Tanya to come up with the theory that Danica is being catfished — and, in fact, Tanya emails the hosts of “Catfish: The TV Show,” Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, who uncover what appears to be the imposter pretending to be Charlie. (He’s played by an unbilled famous comedian, under a mass of Jheri Curls, in a cameo that’s working to be funnier than it is.)

So after all this, what’s stopping Danica from getting together with the adoring hunky Frank? She learns that he served seven years in prison for armed robbery, and is also a recovering addict, and that sets off a red flag for her. But it’s really a red flag of snobbery. “Nobody’s Fool” is a movie about a nose-in-the-air corporate control freak who must learn to accept the damaged legacy — and, implicitly, the racially driven pain — of her beau, and also her sister.

It’s another Tyler Perry film with a lot of lessons, and I don’t want to come off like I’m looking down on that (which I don’t), but good lessons don’t necessarily add up to a good movie. Not even when Whoopi Goldberg pops up to steal a few scenes as Danica and Tanya’s perpetually stoned-out-of-her-gourd mother. “Nobody’s Fool” is about a woman who ends up having to see through a series of fools, including herself; she’s got to climb down off her high horse. There’s a tradition of that in romantic comedy, but it’s one that thrives on characters who have more charm — less high-strung neurotic astringence — than Sumpter’s Danica. Next time, it would be great to see a character like Tiffany Haddish’s Tanya get all the good lines, and all the romantic emotionalism too. Put another way: What would it look like if a young Madea melted?

Popular on Variety

Film Review: Tiffany Haddish in 'Nobody's Fool'

Reviewed at Regal Union Square, New York, Nov. 1, 2018. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 110 MIN.

Production: A Paramount Pictures release of a Tyler Perry Studios, BET Films production. Producers: Mark E. Swinton, Will Areu. Executive producer: Tyler Perry.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Tyler Perry. Camera (color, widescreen): Richard J. Vialet. Editor: Larry Sexton. Music: Philip White.

With: Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Whoopi Goldberg, Amber Riley, Mehcad Brooks, David Arveson, Missi Pyle, Jon Rudnitsky, Nev Schulman, Max Joseph.

More Film

  • Fernando Meirelles The Two Popes

    Film News Roundup: 'The Two Popes' Wins Audience Award at Miami Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Two Popes” wins an audience award, “A Night with Janis Joplin” and “Fittest in Dubai” get releases, Artists First reorganizes, SAG-AFTRA expands its headquarters and Film Fest 919 announces its winners. AUDIENCE AWARD Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” has won the audience award at the Miami Gems Film Festival. [...]

  • Scotty Bowers

    Scotty Bowers, Old Hollywood's Sexual Matchmaker, Dies at 96

    Scotty Bowers, a “sexual matchmaker” for dozens of stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood who wrote about his colorful — and sometimes unbelivable — life in his memoir “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” died at his Laurel Canyon home on Sunday. He was 96. The [...]

  • AMC theater

    AMC Entertainment Introducing On-Demand Movie Service

    AMC Entertainment will introduce an online video store in the United States on Tuesday. Adam Aron, AMC’s president and chief executive, said that the AMC Theaters On Demand will offer about 2,000 films for sale or rent after their theatrical runs — much like Amazon or iTunes. Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony and Paramount have [...]

  • Scarlett Johansson poses for photographers upon

    Scarlett Johansson 'Pushing' for All-Women Marvel Movie

    After the epic battle scene in “Avengers: Endgame” depicted the female superheroes uniting to protect Spider-Man from Thanos, Marvel fans started wondering if they’ll ever see the women unite for a standalone movie. “Captain Marvel” star Brie Larson generated even more buzz when she told Variety that she and other female co-stars have approached Marvel [...]

  • Ivana Lombardi Netflix

    Annapurna Film Head Ivana Lombardi Named Director of Indies at Netflix (EXCLUSIVE)

    Annapurna Pictures president of film Ivana Lombardi is moving across town to Netflix, after almost a year in her role at Megan Ellison’s company. As of Nov. 6, Lombardi will serve as director of independent films at the streamer. She will report directly to Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s vice president of independent film and documentary features. [...]

  • Zoe Kravitz 'Big Little Lies' TV

    Zoe Kravitz to Play Catwoman in 'The Batman'

    “Big Little Lies” star Zoe Kravitz has been tapped to play Catwoman, the antiheroine and sometime love interest of the Caped Crusader, in Matt Reeves’ upcoming “The Batman.” Kravitz will star opposite Robert Pattinson as Batman. In recent weeks, the role came down to Kravitz, Zazie Beetz of “Atlanta,” “Deadpool 2” and “Joker,” “Baby Driver’s” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content