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Nobody's Fool


Paramount Pictures; 110 minutes

Director: Tyler Perry

Written by on November 5, 2018 

Like Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage working together in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Nobody’s Fool finally offers Tyler Perry and Tiffany Haddish a chance for two uninhibited talents of their craft to work together. It’s a different kind of madness, one with the kind of comic lack of restraint you’d expect–and it doesn’t always work.

The center of the story is Danica (Tika Sumpter), an ad executive who’s currently in an online relationship with an engineer who spends a lot of time on an offshore rig. Living in a glamorous apartment in New York City (shot against a green screen as clearly writer/director Perry takes liberties with just how long it takes to get from one point to another in Manhattan traffic), she lives a seemingly charmed life except when it comes to men. Lucky for her she’s chased by Frank (Omari Hardwick), the owner of Brown Bean, a charming coffee shop next to her office. The only problem is a humble coffee shop proprietor doesn’t check all the boxes on her “list.”


Things get shaken up, of course, when Tayna (Haddish) arrives fresh from jail, injecting a dose of over the top broad comedy into the proceedings. The film doesn’t understand much about jail life, but then again it’s Tyler Perry–if it’s one thing the filmmaker doesn’t do, it is nuance. When we first meet Tayna she’s in the back of a white Bronco having sex with a guy who screams, “No condom forever.” Get it, Black Panther fans?

Tanya moves in at the request of her mom Lola (Whoopi Goldberg), a Jersey stoner who guilt trips Danica. Goldberg steals every scene she’s in, not an easy feat when you’re sharing the screen with the comedic firestarter Haddish. Frank, who we learn has some baggage of his own, grants Tanya a second chance and they team up in the courtship of Dancia. 

There’s one problem: his virtual boyfriend Charlie, which leads Tanya to team up with the boys from Catfish as they trace the number to a trailer park where they find a comedy great giving another over-the-top performance. The film operates with its own sense of logic about how cell phones work which, like its view of New York City traffic and geography, requires one to suspend disbelief.


Nobody’s Fool is a broad, overly long comedy that further probes social issues like mass incarceration (although perhaps not as effectively as Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail) and the relationship problems of successful high-income females looking for their equal. Race and “code-switching” are a thing in this universe, but they’re accepted as fact of life rather than with the gravity it is given in a film like The Hate U Give. This isn’t to say the film doesn’t have a few genuine laughs, although Haddish does the majority of the heavy lifting on that front, often trying a little too hard. It’s the kind of performance without guardrails that makes one appreciate her breakout in Girls Trip even more.

Simultaneously covering too much ground without going in-depth with certain issues, Nobody’s Fool doesn’t know when to hit the pause button. Perry is no Nora Ephron, and sometimes his willingness to throw away the cinematic rulebook on tone works (Why Did I Get Married Too? is almost magical in what it accomplishes).  Here the emotional journey is mostly played for laughs when it could have been something much more affecting. Nobody’s Fool takes the middle ground, but with this level of talent it could have had the power of something like Mike Leigh’s Another Year, where I found myself laughing and crying often in the same scene. I still think Perry, who has made 18 feature films, will eventually make his masterpiece of American cinema. This is far from it.

Nobody’s Fool is now in wide release.


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