A Jazzman’s Blues (2022) – Film Review

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The blues of a jazzman2022.

Written and directed by Tyler Perry.
With Joshua Boone, Amirah Vann, Solea Pfeiffer, Ryan Eggold, Austin Scott, Milauna Jackson, Brent Antonello, Brad Benedict, Kario Marcel, Kelley Davis, Lana Young, Robert Stevens Wayne, Emily Lane, Cody Pressley, Candi VandiZandi and E. Roger Mitchell.

SYNOPSIS:

An investigation into an unsolved murder follows, revealing a story full of forbidden love, deception and a secret.

Opening in 1987 with a slow zoom of a television screen where a white politician rants and raves about his disdain for affirmative action (usually making himself a racist moron), an elderly black woman walks up to television and shut up while softly grumbling “enough is enough”, a feeling we can all feel.

Coming from writer/director Tyler Perry (the first screenplay he ever wrote, here made into a feature 27 years later with a good chunk of Netflix money behind it), this plan (directed by Brett Pawlak) is methodically constructed enough to convince that the filmmaker’s foray into dramatic material with The blues of a jazzman might yield something substantial worth discussing.

Two minutes later, in what has to be one of the most blunt and funniest framing device setups in recent memory, that same woman walks into the politician’s office and slams down a heavy stock of letters, essentially telling him to get to work. a mystery from 40 years ago. As the politician reads, the clock goes back about 50 years in the same Georgian town.

Joshua Boone is Bayou (a nickname based on his deep eyes), a 17-year-old boy ostracized by those around him, mercilessly verbally abused by his father (E. Roger Mitchell), and also bullied by his slightly older brother Willie Earl (Austin Scott), adored by his charming mother Hattie (the same woman from the prologue sequence, played in the past by Amirah Vann), and adorable according to local girl Solea Pfeiffer’s Leanne (cruelly referred to by most townspeople as Bucket). Bayou is somewhat aloof and uneducated but endearing (Joshua Boone has nothing to do with the issues here), as his brother Willie Earl is seen as the musically gifted who will make something of his life.

Tyler Perry knows no subtlety, so the dysfunctional family drama in The blues of a jazzman comes fast and hard, especially with the comically overplayed man of the house getting up and leaving for Chicago, taking all the money left. This thoughtless outing only serves to further the heat between siblings, with Willie Earl now resenting Hattie, assuming she is showing favoritism towards Bayou. Throughout it, Bayou snuck out of the house, bonded with the charming Leanne at night, learned to read and write, and fell in love with each other.

Confessing this love, Leanne runs away and pretends they can’t see each other again. It turns out that she is sexually abused by her grandfather and fears that she is no longer pure for Bayou, which he claims is untrue as he wishes he could do something about the situation. In one of the letters, he wonders if he is weak, just as his scolding father says. He doesn’t have to worry about it anymore, because Leanne’s mother is now aware of their love and sends her to Boston.

The chemistry between Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer is not to blame; from the start, they radiate doomed lover energy and are wonderful to be around. That’s not to say that Tyler Perry doesn’t overcook some of their dramas as well, but that’s nothing compared to the rest of the characters in The blues of a jazzman, who rarely have any meaningful context behind any of their often hasty and absurd actions. Even heartbreaking details, such as the sexual abuse mentioned above, come across as small character details rather than part of the person’s identity; trauma is a feature to fuel over-the-top melodrama.

Within minutes, anyone remotely alert and attentive to the screen will notice that many of the characters have visibly fair skin, as if they could pass for white. The pass finally comes into play in The blues of a jazzman, but it is explored as a way to elevate emotionless dangerous love. Everything here is pushed to 11 and formatted narratively, leaving no room for layered characterization. There’s a moment when Willie Earl reappears in the movie (he too is leaving for Chicago) with a suspicious-looking European who he thinks is a capable manager to get him booked at the Capital Royale, and the most shocking part of the film is that it’s true.

That said, once circumstances beyond Bayou’s control also forced him to Chicago in 1947, where he began to realize the full extent of his singing talents (another terrific aspect of Joshua Boone’s performance), Tyler Perry finds a decent rhythm by building several musical numbers. and a lavish recreation of the aforementioned location. However, even those moments are undermined by repetitive and infuriating scenes from Willie Earl, now more jealous than ever of not starring in the show, having also developed a heroin addiction. Similar to the father character (and a few others, there just isn’t enough time to cover them here), these behaviors are heightened by unintended hilarity.

It is undeniable that the tragic fate to which these lovers are destined is sad; knowing it’s coming doesn’t lessen the impact. But the absurd, uncontrolled melodrama surrounding Bayou and Leanne (again, even if they sometimes have wonky writing to weave their way through) is like an out-of-tune horn played by a drug addict. And then the (predictable) final reveal arrives, followed by a panning shot which, while a clever juxtaposition to the opening, culminates in an incredibly cheesy image that would have been amazing had the rest of the film been tightly wrapped. and cleverly written. In theory, that’s a brilliant payoff, but pretty much everything above fails.

The blues of a jazzman is a mess of overblown ideas and plots that Tyler Perry just isn’t a capable enough filmmaker to weave into an emotionally satisfying journey. But Joshua Boone has an angelic voice, so at least listen to the soundtrack.

Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter Where Letter boxor email me at [email protected]

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