Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Fighting Temptations (2003)

This gospel comedy starring Oscar winning Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles in the leading roles begins with traditional black gospel choir singing accompanied by Rev. Shirley Caesar. The story is located in Montecarlo, Georgia and it begins when Darrin Hill (Gooding Jr.) and Lilly (Knowles) are still children and obviously friends. Darrin's mother (Faith Evans) gets fired from the Beulah Baptist Church choir because of her secular R&B recording contract though Darrin's aunt Sally (Ann Nesby) tries to speak for her. Darrin and her mother move out from Montecarlo.

The key of the story and message of this movie lies in aunt Sally and her ideaology, her interpretation of Christianity. The main character Darrin has to face many reasons of sorrow at once and one of them is the death of aunt Sally which is also the turning-point of the story as Darrin has to travel from New York to Montecarlo to hear her will. According to the will Darrin has to lead the Beulah Baptist Church choir into the annual Gospel Explosion competition. Darrin will soon come to realize though that Montecarlo is full of colourful personalities but lacks suitable singers for the gospel choir that he's now got to gather. That's when now grown Lilly (Beyoncé), a sensual jazz singer comes up and makes the day.

Though this movie is one of my current favourites the professional critics disagree with me which is understandable. The movie's events are very predictable and as this movie was one of Beyoncé's first ones her acting is pretty poor - she only has to look either adorable or grieving. She has of course later topped her acting with her best work yet, Cadillac Records, but that's whole another blog and another story. In my opinion from all her movie's until now and from all of her characters until now she might relate to Lilly the most in her personal life though others say the character is Deena Jones from Dreamgirls. Well, I think that after all her personality and experience might be something between Deena Jones and Lilly, because of Destiny's Child's break-up and because she's known to be a sweet, God-fearing lady.
In The Fighting Temptations she's a singer in her element and hardly an actress. Beyoncé has two or three star moments: her performances of "Fever", "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and her sweet duet "Everything I Do" featuring neo-soul singer Bilal. Otherwise she's unfortunately left in the shadow of the movie's starstruck cast of huge names in R&B and gospel music though of course on this day Beyoncé is the most remarkable singer of our generation and her phenomenon equals to that of Aretha Franklin's. Angie Stone, Mary Mary, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams are some of the most well-known and biggest artists showing up in the movie. Movie's musical repertoire is R&B and gospel flavoured with hiphop which of course continues in the movie sountrack.

I would actually prefer comparing Beyoncé to Whitney Houston because her voice and singing style and her career choices match more to those of Whitney's: Whitney starred a gospel movie The Preacher's Wife (1998) and she recorded a gospel album named the same but was involved also in other gospel projects during her career and we know that Beyoncé recorded few gospel songs also beside The Fighting Temptations soundtrack with Destiny's Child. In the soundtrack Beyoncé sings at least in "Swing Low Sweet Chariot", "He Still Loves Me" and in "Rain Down" I suppose. Destiny's Child's recorded gospel songs were "Amazing Grace" and "Gospel Medley" but also a loosely gospel inspired "Thank You". Destiny's Child also collaborated with Mary Mary in their album Thankful singing "So Good To Me". Whitney also did modelling in the beginnings of her career and Beyoncé does modelling beside music as well.

MY GRADE: I'm giving this movie 7, 5 out of 10, thanks to movie's great musical repertoire, starstruck cast and some striking humour and jokes that I loved. This movie truly makes me smile and even laugh a little and it makes my day when I need it. All in all, this movie is definitely worth seeing for the fans of gospel music and those of Beyoncé's as well. I'd have given a higher grade for better acting performances. Anyway, there's no denying that music is the heart of this movie and it should be received in that way.