How long has it been since I gave a movie an A+? If you don't count all of the Vault Picks I highlight where most of them qualify for that grade by default, it has been quite a while. It's very rare that a movie comes along that is high caliber enough to pull it off. Especially with as nit-picky as I tend to be. As much as I admire Bishop T.D. Jakes, I wouldn't have thought that one of his products would do it. However, it was primarily because of no fault of his own, and I will get into that later. For now, let me start by saying three simple words: SEE. THIS. MOVIE.
After years of disagreeing on what true happiness, success, and love really are, Dave (Morris Chestnut) and Clarice Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) have finally reached a breaking point in their marriage. When Clarice is hurt in a car accident, the obvious truth that more than just her injuries need immediate attention is exposed. Their odds of working things out worsen as Clarice begins to see a physical therapist, and Dave develops a friendship with the therapist, Julie (Maeve Quinlan) and her teenage son, Bryson (Cannon Jay).
The Johnson's marriage is tested by more than just the new friendship. They also have the added presence of Clarice's over-bearing mother (Jenifer Lewis) to contend with. When Dave tries to find escape by his continued coaching of a little league team, it only drives a wedge further between the two. As temptation tugs at Dave and Clarice pulls farther away, they must confront whether their vows are or are not easily broken.
This was only the second Bishop T.D. Jakes movie to be translated into a motion picture. The first was "Woman Thou Art Loosed" and after seeing how incredible that one was, it's amazing that it took five years for him to make the transition again. One could say that he may owe some of that to the ground that Tyler Perry's films broke to make it possible. It also caused me to unfairly compare Jakes' work to Perry's. Fortunately, that worked out in the Bishop's favor.
Unlike Perry's films, this movie was pretty far from predictable. Each time I thought a certain conflict would be resolved one way, it went another direction. Everyone knew that Dave and his troubled friend Darnell (Wood Harris) would eventually have it out. However, I would have never thought it would be thru an almost "Love and Basketball" type scene where no words were needed. There was another major moment in the film involving the physical therapist that I never saw coming. It tested several of the characters and ended up being very essential to making "Not Easily Broken" as powerful as it was.
Jakes also did not try to use comedy for the sake of having it. Some of Perry's films tend to rely too much on forcing laughs instead of letting them come naturally. Most of the times they are from characters that just aren't that amusing and it ends up being the downfall of the movie. "Not Easily Broken" relies primarily on one character, Kevin Hart's character Tree to bring the funny and does he ever. He is wisely used sparingly yet every scene he is in he absolutely steals. It was quite refreshing to finally see this brotha used wisely in a comedic role.
The acting was purely phenomenal throughout the entire film. I have been following both Chestnut's and Henson's careers since their beginning and it is amazing how far they have come from their humble beginnings. They both have come forth with some of their best work to date. However, Henson showed out the most. Especially her scene in the backyard where her and her mother have a long overdue confrontation. It's at that moment that you see she has immersed herself so much in the role that you see not only the character's dramatic transformation but Henson's emergence as an outstanding actress.
The only knock I had on the film is one that was very minimal. What in the world were they trying to accomplish with Henson's hairstyle she was rockin' in this movie? It was driving me crazy all throughout the entire film. I sure hope that wasn't her real hair. If it wasn't, it was one of the worst wigs and/or weaves ever. If it was her real hair, they needed to get a better hairdresser. As I said, I realize it's very anal on my part, but I'm just saying. It was just really bothering me.
The message from "Not Easily Broken" is undeniable. No matter what the relationship, it will not succeed without putting God first. But what makes the movie so successful is it doesn't try to pound it through with verse after Biblical reference to get a point across. It gives us the scenarios, watches how they're played out and we see what happens in the absence of His guidance. That message along with the overall package makes this film more than just the best film I have seen all year (yes, I realize we're only a few weeks in); it makes it one of the best movies I have seen in at least a couple of years.
My rating: A+