Tyler Perry is one of those directors that most people know by name. His name has become quite recognizable in the mainstream, even when his movies are always aimed at a very specific audience. Perry has made it his mission to help spread black filmmaking in any way he can. Unlike directors like Spike Lee, Perry has centered his movies more on the comedy side of things, or in the most melodramatic as well. Is Tyler Perry a good director? Maybe, not, but he tries, very, very hard. A Jazzman’s Blues is his new original film, and it is now available on Netflix. Let’s review it.
A Jazzman’s Blues is a film written and directed by Tyler Perry and stars Joshua Boone, Solea Pfeiffer, Amirah Vann, Austin Scott, and Ryan Eggold. The film tells the story of Bayou, a young black man living in the south, and his tragic love story with Leanne, a black girl with very light skin. So light, that she can pass for a white person. Their romance becomes forbidden when Leanne gets trapped by society’s norms and standards. Life is never easy but sometimes it is just unfair.
Tyler Perry is a controversial figure, for sure. Even among black people, he always gives people something to talk about. Sometimes it is just something he said in an interview, or sometimes it is just his movies themselves. In the opinion of some black people, he uses too many stereotypes, and his vision of what it means to be black seems to be stuck in the past, which could be dangerous and also insulting. However, it is undeniable that he has a solid audience that watches his movies religiously.
Half of Perry’s filmography consists of Madea’s films, a character that he created, where he dresses like an old black woman and goes on comedic adventures in different settings. Madea’s films could be some of the lowest of the low when it comes to black cinema in the United States, but they make enough money to turn Perry into a millionaire. One that has his own studio and is giving opportunities to rising star filmmakers that want to do something new and different in black cinema.
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when Perry decides he needs to go to the next level. He needs those Oscars and those awards. He already has the money. So, when he reveals that he has a movie written and directed by himself, which is not a Madea film, well, everybody starts to pay attention. The movie is finally here and the result is something that, like many other of Perry’s films, is quite busy with details, but very little meaningful story. The characters’ behavior is aloof, and the plot itself is overly complicated. Nevertheless, this is one of Perry’s best films to date.
How? How can a film with so many flaws be one of the best by its director? Well, Madea’s films exist, and that is reason enough. Perry is really going out of his way to do something that is very different from what he has us used to. This type of effort is not something that should be underestimated or overlooked. Many directors go through their careers happy while doing the same thing. But here, here we have a director that is willing to take the risk of something different.
If he manages to be successful at it, that will be another tale to be told, but A Jazzman’s Blues proves that Perry can do something different if he puts his mind to it. When it comes to visuals, this is one of Perry’s best. There are some examples of the actual composition. He is taking care of his film’s images, and he understands he can do so much more with the camera than just point and say action. This probably is the result of having Brett Pawlak in the cinematographer’s chair. Perry should always look for great cinematographers to work with on future projects.
The acting is solid but nothing out of this world, and this aspect is probably hurt by the quality of the writing. Thankfully, the film never manages to go in the direction of too much melodrama, which will make the film tolerable for a bigger audience. What really might hurt the film is the very on-the-nose social commentary and a twist that is telegraphed hours in advance. Nothing is very subtle in this movie and some people like that. However, it makes the film feel sloppy. It is all very weird because this is Tyler’s 23rd film as a director.
A Jazzman’s Blues is very watchable and for those in the audience who like their stories to feel very close to what a soap opera feels like, then this is the film for them. For everyone else, this is a nice curiosity. It is always entertaining to see an artist step out of their comfort zone and try something new. It doesn’t matter if the result is not that good, watching someone go all in on something is always exciting.