Atlanta movie studio mogul Tyler Perry introduced “Nobody’s Fool,” his first R-rated comedy to two packed preview audiences at Atlantic Station Thursday night. And for those who have been following the writer-director-producer’s film work since his 2005 inaugural Madea comedy, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (made primarily for the church folk who flocked to his stage plays), Tiffany Haddish’s consistent flow of fellatio jokes may have initially been a bit jarring.
“Get ready!” Perry jokingly told me as he worked the red carpet with the press before the premiere.
The film stars Tika Sumpter (who plays the villainess Candace Young on Perry’s OWN hit drama “The Haves and the Have Nots”) as Danica, a New York based ad executive who receives a call from her mom Lola (played by Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg) that her wild child sister Tanya (Haddish) is about to be released from prison. When Danica innocently inquires what time she needs to pick her sister up, Goldberg as weed horticulturalist Lola replies, “What time? Honey, it’s jail. You get there when you can, like the song says.”
Perry and Haddish set the raunchier, R-rated tone early on. Her first scene is a comedic sex act inside a white Bronco outside the prison as her sister and Danica’s assistant Callie (Amber Riley) roll up. “Don’t look!” cautions Danica. “I can’t help it,” replies Callie. “It’s like watching a ‘Love and Hip-Hop’ reunion.” When the pair finally get Tanya into the car, her first request is for hand sanitizer and mouthwash.
The film’s central plot revolves around Danica’s long-distance relationship with a beau named Charlie (who has yet to physically materialize after a year of texting), her flirtations with Frank, an ex-con coffee shop owner who’s in recovery (played by Omari Hardwick) and Tanya’s suspicions that her sister is being catfished. All of this leads to perhaps the most unexpected celebrity cameo in Tyler Perry’s 13-year film history.
And while Perry has explored R-rated dramatic territory previously with his 2010 film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls” and his Taraji P. Henson starring thriller “Acrimony” released in March, it’s initially unsettling to watch a break up scene in which a Tyler Perry romantic comedy lead actor bitterly tells the leading lady to “fuck off.”
But between the lines of the bluer, bawdier humor, there’s still the heartbeat of any Tyler Perry project, prioritizing the themes of love conquering obstacles, the strength of family and a happy (not to mention pre-requisite outrageous) ending.
And Thursday night’s preview audiences clearly loved the new, more explicit tone, routinely laughing throughout the 110-minute comedy as Haddish amped up the antics and occasionally scolding the characters making poor life choices on-screen.
As a waving Perry walked into the theater to introduce his latest, he spotted a young man in the front row.“How old are you, son?” he asked. “You’re Ten? Hmmmmm. We probably want to take you over to see another movie. We might have to have a conversation after.”
After encouraging the audience to tell their friends about the film and to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections, the filmmaker waved goodbye, telling the crowd, “You are not ready for this. Tiffany Haddish is so funny she might make you squirt a little pee. This is the brand new Tyler Perry!”
Above: Red carpet videography by Paolo Aguila for Eldredge ATL.