“[The Single Moms Club] shows that its director can do sophisticated work without the need of a wig and an obnoxious outfit.”

Tyler Perry’s latest film, The Single Moms Club, is already looking to be adapted into a TV show for Oprah Winfrey’s already slumping and underperforming TV network, which only adds to the reasons that this unexpected feature film from Perry seems like something that needs to exist in order to set up a future, unreleased project. With that in mind, and with the obvious love Perry is getting from Oprah for not only being a voice for the black community in film but also in the regard that his other soap-opera “The Haves and the Have Nots” is greatly helping her network, it’s so easy to assume that The Single Moms Club is just another Perry byproduct here to stereotype, oversimplify, be uniformly awful, and suck money out of our pocketbooks.

Yet, Perry delivers one of the biggest mixed-bags in his film career in the regard that for everything the film does right it also does something wrong. Like all Perry films, its heart seems to be in the right place, yet it can’t escape that sector of preachiness and heavy moralizing that often turns Perry’s films from intriguing, relatable dramas to tiresome, heavy-handed sermons that grow wearisome on a person after a while. With The Single Moms Club, he does a great job at giving each of his lead female characters a time to shine and equal screentime, however, he continuously makes missteps in the film’s approach and central focus, resulting in a picture that is just all over the place at times.

The Single Moms Club
Written & Directed by
Tyler Perry
Cast
Nia Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Amy Smart
Release Date
14 March 2014
Steve’s Grade: C-

The film concerns five single moms as they deal with the pressures, the hardships, and the uncertain tribulations of being single parents in an increasingly tumultuous world, and also look to form new relationships while discarding or suppressing unhealthy ones. Amy Smart stars as Hillary, a mother whose divorce is just about to be finalized, who must take care of three children, two infants, and hold down a gigantic household all on her own. Wendi McLendon-Covey is Jan, a workaholic with a daughter who has completely disowned the thought of having a man in her life whatsoever, not even commenting to anyone, not even her daughter, about the relationship that brought her child into the world. Cocoa Brown is Lytia, a sassy black mother who is desperately fighting to keep her twelve-year-old son off the streets after losing two kids to the world of robbery and crime. Nia Long is May, a writer with a tween male who is beginning to realize how much he needs his father’s attention. And, finally, there’s Zulay Henao’s Esperanza, a Hispanic woman who always feels the need to try and one-up her ex-husband as they try to decide what’s best for their eleven-year-old daughter.

The mothers are brought together thanks to their children, who get into some trouble at school, causing the mothers to forcefully have to work together on a fundraiser to help the school. During their first meeting, Hillary’s persistent worrying about taking over the duties of her maid, and her now absent husband, cause the women to hang out on the porch, sip Kendall Jackson, and discuss how many don’t realize how tough it is to be a single parent. During these talks, Perry does little wrong, giving each woman enough of a voice to be more than a caricature, and infuse enough human interest and relatability in the stories of these women in order to make their struggle a lot more personal and real. Single-parenthood is becoming depressingly common in American society today and to shortchange that would be a horrible misrepresentation of such a large sector of people.


What Perry unfortunately does, however, is make these lengthy conversations between these women rare and sporadic, devoting more time to the relationships of these women with men they meet. This seems to completely defeat the purpose of what Perry is trying to go for. The film starts out by trying to show you that single-parenthood is a lot of laborious work but can still be done, if sacrifices are made and a strong-willed nature is kept. But Perry provides each one of these women with a butting male in their life in order to establish a relationship, basically alluding to the idea that single motherhood is impossible and a man is still needed.

Perry wastes time developing several relationship contrivances when he could be setting up stronger, more viable bonds between the mothers and their children. At one point, we hear the mothers talk about what their children say to them about their own mothers. Why didn’t we spend time on this? Were we too busy watching Terry Crews play a love-sick man trying to win the heart of Lytia, who consistently turned a cold shoulder to him? Then there’s the horribly emotionally manipulative finale that seems tacked on just so it can try to drain some tears out of you the unsubtle way, featuring cheesy heart-to-hearts with the moms and their children, whose characters go completely unexplored in a film where their relationships should be one of the central focuses.

The Single Moms Club still benefits from a very talented cast, unmistakable chemistry amongst them, some seriously contemplative drama and affects single-parenthood can have on couples and their children, and shows that its director can do sophisticated work without the need of a wig and an obnoxious outfit. Perry’s core audiences are likely to eat this material up – it’s not particularly burdensome in its cheesiness like some of his other works – yet it’s miserably basic and shortchanging when it needed more exploration and depth.

Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film Critic