In Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (2013), Melinda Gayle causes havoc on her ex-husband Robert Gayle when, after 18 years of supporting his dream, she becomes resentful. But when he makes it big and she’s not part of his life anymore, Melinda feels that her past sacrifices should be rewarded.
The saying goes that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. We know this to be true and witnessed through the ages. The most famous being Betty Broderick. Betty put her husband through law school only to have him step out on her with another woman. Once the degree is obtained, he leaves Betty and marries the said woman.
If you’ve seen the movie A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story (1992), you know what havoc Betty causes on Dan, her former husband, and his new wife, going so far as to shoot them while they sleep.
Melinda may not be scorned, in my opinion, but she is resentful. Very resentful. And her sharp and bitter hatred towards Robert is made apparent.
LET’S START AT THE END, SHALL WE
The movie opens with Melinda in court for stalking Robert and his current wife, Diana. She has been given a restraining order and required to get anger management counseling. Wait until you see the hate-filled side glance she’s giving Diana in court. Melinda’s hate It’s from the therapist office we see the animosity Melinda holds for her ex when the therapist asks, “What do you think he owes you?“, to which Melinda replies, “Every damn breath is his body.”
RAIN BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER – BY ACCIDENT
Melinda is in college (circa 2001) and working on a paper. She realizes she’s late for something and rushes out the library only to realize it’s raining. While using whatever she has for cover she runs into Robert, literally. Both parties drop their belongings. Melinda begins cursing Robert out. Once she gathers her stuff she leaves, leaving Robert to still get his things. A little while later, Robert shows up at Melinda’s dorm to apologize for what he did.
Shortly thereafter, Melinda’s mother dies and there’s a gathering at her mother’s house to which Robert shows up, unexpected. Melinda’s sisters are not impressed with Robert right off the bat, and neither is Melinda by how Robert showed up unannounced. But she’s not that concerned with it as her sisters are. Robert gets run out by her sisters. Melinda chases after him to learn that he’ll get back home by walking to the train station. Not wanting him to walk that far, Melinda offers him a ride home. It’s here she learns he lives in a small RV, however, it doesn’t bother her and she asks if she can go in. And the rest, as they say, is HERtory.
They begin seeing each other, sort of, until Melinda tries to get a hold of Robert unsuccessfully. Getting frustrated she goes to his RV to find him in there with another woman. Melinda takes her Jeep Wrangler and begins running into the RV until the RV tips over. This should have been a huge RED FLAG for Robert about Melinda, but it isn’t. The person he’s with is Diana. I’ll get to her significance in a bit.
ENDEAVORS, TWO JOBS, AND A CRIMINAL RECORD
Melinda and Robert get married and move into her mother’s house, the one Melinda grew up in. Robert has set up a room in the back of the house to work on his invention. His goal is to get Mr. Prescott, a billion dollar company that works with inventors and either buys the product or partners up with the inventors to get their product on the market.
Robert doesn’t work, while Melinda works two or three jobs supporting Robert’s dream. Robert ends up spending an enormous amount of money, Melinda’s money, towards his invention. So much so, they have now gone in debt. Not only does Melinda have to work the two or three jobs to help keep things afloat, but she ends up mortgaging the house, while Robert does nothing.
After some time, Robert finally lands three interviews at companies that pay over 100k a year, but he loses out on all three jobs due to the criminal record he had when he was 15. He thought the record would be expunged once he became an adult but it didn’t. Now his chances of getting a decent job will be even harder and Melinda is right back where she started; supporting someone who can’t, or won’t, get a job.
LONG STORY SHORT
After 18 years or so, Robert finally gets to see Mr. Prescott. Some on his own merit, but mostly because of Diana. If you remember Diana was the girl Robert was stepping out on Melida with when they were in college. Well, Diana is now Mr. Prescott’s right-hand woman bringing people’s inventions to Prescott.
I’m going to skip all the hoopla and get straight to the point; Melinda divorces Robert, and after she divorces him Robert makes it big with his invention.
I’m not going to go into what happened pre-divorce or after the divorce because it’s something you definitely have to witness for yourself.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE
There are quite a few times in the movie Melinda’s mental state is brought to light, starting with her knocking Robert’s RV over with her Jeep back in college. How she’s staring at Diana when they are in court some years later. Her various facial expressions while in therapy. I’m just speaking about her facial expresses. Nevermind what comes out of her mouth. Taraji P. Henson is one of those actresses that doesn’t have to say anything for her facial expressions does all the talking. I think this is what makes her great in this movie. I don’t feel that another actress could pull off what she does to bring the anger, hostility, animosity, resentfulness, and bitterness as she did.
Henson has great body language to express what she’s feeling. The way she holds her cigarette and blows out the smoke is enough to send chills down your spine. And the first time she does I knew I was in for the ride of my life, and trust me, the ride is bumpy.
If you compound her facial expression, body language with the words coming out of her mouth, even you will be running for the hills. Henson portrays a bitter and resentful person like nobody’s business.
“is an outward signal of inner turmoil or conflict and most smoking has less to do with nicotine addiction and more to do with the need for reassurance”. (Westside Toastmasters). This is very evident in the movie when it comes to Melinda. I don’t think we see young Melinda smoking, but we do see Henson’s Melinda smoking like a dang chimney. And when she’s smoking her legs are cross and she gives side glances.
According to Body Language Project, “legs can be a great indicator of true thoughts and feelings”. Compound this with her smoking says a lot about Melinda’s feelings. When we visit her in the therapist office, she’s sitting with legs crossed. It’s not until she has to express her anger towards Robert does she light up a cigarette. The cigarette represents her reassurance, mostly to herself, that she has a right to feel how she feels. Legs crossed is the same as arms crossed. It’s a sign of skepticism or defensiveness.
When Robert comes home from his meeting with Prescott, Melinda is seated with her legs crossed, while smoking a cigarette:
During a conversation, it can indicate a ‘withdrawn’ attitude and it has been observed that people who cross their legs in the seated position tend to talk in shorter sentences and reject more proposals and are more inattentive to what’s going on compared to those who sit in a more ‘open’ position. (https://www.psychmechanics.com)
Melinda spurts out short sentences to Robert while sitting back in the chair, legs crossed and a cigarette in hand. When she is sure about her self and her actions, especially what she feels and wants, she uncrosses her legs, scoots and leans forward toward Robert and speaks her thoughts. Again, short sentences, maybe three or four words.
Dressed in Black
When Melinda is in court she’s dressed in black. The therapy session she attends she’s in black. When she visits Robert later in the movie, she’s in black, albeit sexy lingerie. But let’s look at the color black and what it represents: it’s associated with power, fear, mystery, strength, authority, elegance, formality, death, evil, and aggression, rebellion, and sophistication. Note the words I have placed in bold.
Dressed in White
Then we have Melinda in white, and it’s during a poignant scene in the movie. White does the following for us:
- Aids mental clarity
- Encourages us to clear clutter or obstacles
- Evokes purification of thoughts or actions
- Enables fresh beginnings
And it does the same for Melinda. When you watch the scene in which she wears white and what her intentions are, the color she chooses to wear is clear in her defining moment in life.
Who is the therapist?
The absence of the therapist Melinda sees could represent Melinda’s thoughts, or her talking to herself. In a sense, her asking herself the questions being asked by the therapist, with her, herself, justifying her anger and bitterness by speaking out loud. We never do see the therapist, even when Melinda leaves the office. I see this as Melinda has talked herself into her justification of her feelings and thoughts and now she’s going to act upon them.
The biggest symbolism is the opening song. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood sung by Nina Simone. I love this song, even when The Animals covered it. Both songs were released in 1964. There’s a particular line in the song that says it all, “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”
BUT WAS SHE REALLY SCORNED
This is the debate among people, was she really scorned? When she thought Robert was stepping out on her again with Diana he said no, and I believe him. But Melinda, it seems, has never gotten that night back in college, out of her head. This tells us she holds on to things for years and years. If it had been anyone else she thought Robert was stepping out on her with, would she have been as angry? Yes. But the fact it’s someone from her past, her anger went from the frying pan into the fire.
When Robert made his millions he wasn’t with Melinda but he made things right with her. Although I brought up Betty Broderick at the beginning of this post, Melinda’s ending with her husband was nothing like Broderick’s ending with her husband. Meaning, Robert wasn’t stepping out on Melinda while they were married. I feel since that night she caught them together, it has played over and over in head for all those years.
However the end result happened, whether he is with Melinda or not, Melinda will always have it in her head that he was seeing Diana on the side. As mentioned early, that scene will forever play and continues to play in Melinda’s head. I personally feel the night she caught Robert with Diana set her anger in motion.
I really enjoyed the movie as a whole. A reviewer said, if they had listened to the bad reviews they would have missed out on a good movie. I agree with the reviewer.
I think the final scene should have been done without any music, but that’s the Michael Haneke in me. Haneke didn’t use music/soundtracks in his films because he felt natural sound was the best music that can be used, and I agree. There is one part in which no music is used and the natural sounds of nature and people are heard which makes the scene that more disturbing. If Perry had continued that until the very end, the power of the final act would have been the defining moment in the movie, for me. However, in an earlier scene with her sitting in the chair, smoking a cigarette with legs crossed waiting for Robert to get home is the defining moment in my eyes.
Acrimony, a Lionsgate film, is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. If you’re a non-Prime member and have to pay to watch the film, I feel it’s worth the money.
If you saw the movie, what are your thoughts? Was she scored or just resentful?