Til Death Do Us Part

til-death-do-us-part-rev ‘Til Death Do Us Part  (2017)    Novus Content/Suspense-Thriller    RT: 101 minutes    Rated PG-13 (thematic elements involving domestic abuse, violence, some sexuality, language)    Director: Christopher B. Stokes    Screenplay: Christopher B. Stokes    Music: Immanuel Rich    Cinematography: Joel Layogan    Release date: September 29, 2017 (US)    Cast: Taye Diggs, Annie Ilonzeh, Stephen Bishop, Robinne Lee, Malik Yoba, Obba Babatunde, Suzanne Whang.

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 In what’s become a rite of autumn, a hit 80s/90s suspense-thriller has been redone with an all-black cast. So far we’ve seen Fatal Attraction (The Perfect Guy) and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (When the Bough Breaks). This year it’s Sleeping with the Enemy only they’re calling it ‘Til Death Do Us Part. Aside from the addition of a baby, its plot is virtually identical to the 1991 Julia Roberts vehicle that had her faking her own death to escape from an abusive husband. It’s silly but it worked. It had an able cast and a director who knows how to make an effective thriller. That would be Joseph Ruben who also made the 1987 horror-thriller The Stepfather. Everything that made Sleeping with the Enemy work is sorely lacking in ‘Til Death Do Us Part. It just comes off as stupid and brainless. Did I mention it’s also boring and predictable?

 “You have the perfect husband” says the heroine’s sassy best friend Chelsea (Lee, Fifty Shades Darker), “Perhaps too perfect.” Funny, that’s exactly what everybody in the audience is thinking. It’s perfectly clear that the marriage of well-to-do businessman Michael (Bishop, Being Mary Jane) and stay-at-home wife Madison (Ilonzeh, All Eyez on Me) is far from perfect. Beneath the charming façade is a violent control freak and wife beater. All she wants from life is a baby and he refuses to give her the one thing she asks from him. Things get worse when she becomes pregnant. Finally, she has enough and pulls a Julia Roberts on her a-hole husband.

 til-death-do-us-partShe relocates to a small town where she changes her name to Kate and works as a waitress at a burger joint. She meets and falls for her next-door neighbor Alex (Diggs, The Best Man), a widowed dad a cute moppet of a daughter. What a guy, he doesn’t even mind that she’s already pregnant. Then one day, a distraught Michael learns that his wife might still be alive in the same way Patrick Bergin did in Enemy (accidentally from somebody who knew the wife but not the circumstances). Looking to reclaim what he believes is rightfully his, he hires a friend (Yoba, Why Did I Get Married?) to find her.

 ‘Til Death Do Us Part copies Sleeping with the Enemy almost scene-for scene with a few minor differences. In Enemy, the husband had a thing about keeping the hand down perfectly straight and even. In Death, Michael always leaves the toilet seat up (so he’s not so perfect after all). This plot details factors into the ending the same way the towels did in Enemy. In Enemy, Roberts is caught stealing apples from her new neighbor’s tree and later bakes a pie. In Death, Alex is caught stealing lemons from Madison/Kate’s tree and later bakes a lemon meringue pie. Both scenarios end with the characters eating the pie together.  In both movies, a piece of jewelry becomes a clue for the suspicious husbands. Okay, just one more. Both Roberts and Madison/Kate have ailing elderly parents in nursing homes; in both films, the bad husband visits to get information. Now throw in a baby, put him in peril in the climax and you have ‘Til Death Do Us Part.

 ‘Til Death Do Us Part isn’t just a total rip-off, it’s not even a good movie. There are many things wrong with it. It’s directed in flat fashion by Christopher B. Stokes (You Got Served). The acting is terrible. Bishop is wooden as the abusive husband. Ilonzeh is gorgeous and easy on the eyes but sometimes it’s like watching a plastic mannequin. You know what, let’s just leave it at the acting is bad. There’s not a shred of style on display. It’s one of the movies that appear to have been made on autopilot. The screenplay (also by Stokes) is poorly written. We’re asked to believe that a traumatized, pregnant woman falls for a man she barely knows so soon after escaping her situation. Wouldn’t such a woman be afraid of getting close to another man this soon? And why isn’t she seeing a therapist?

 As a final insult, end titles about domestic abuse pop up right before the closing credits. There’s even a phone number provided for victims of domestic abuse. After the dreck we just witnessed, is this even appropriate? I’m sure it was well-intentioned but I doubt abused women would even bother with a movie like ‘Til Death Do Us Part. The truth is that nobody should bother with it. It’s a waste of time and money. Go rewatch the original Julia Roberts movie instead.

 On a related note, I wonder what’s in store for us next year. I predict it will either be Single White Female, The Crush or Fear. Until next September..... 

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