Judge Joel Pearce's wife won't let him write that he's the man of the house.
Our review of Not Easily Broken (Blu-Ray), published April 8th, 2009, is also available.
The path of true love never runs smoothly.
I never thought I'd say this about a fluffy little drama, but Not Easily Broken is one of the most condescending and insulting love stories I've ever seen. Navigating somehow between emotional ineptitude and shallow religious truisms, it's hard to imagine anyone responding to this film the way it was intended.
Facts of the Case
Dave (Morris Chestnut, Ladder 49) was all set to be a baseball star, but an injury puts him out of the game for good. He does have Clarice (Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), his beautiful and ambitious wife. She has turned cold over the past few years, though, focusing more on her career than on their relationship. After Clarice is in an accident, they drift further apart until their marriage reaches the near breaking point. When Dave develops a friendship with Clarice's physical therapist, it just makes things worse.
There have been countless films about marriages gone awry—relationships that start wonderfully but drift apart over time. Usually, these stories are about good but flawed people who can't cope with differences, misunderstandings, and the struggles that accompany all marriages. They are interesting stories, because they contain kernels of emotional truths and remind us that we, too, can work through our struggles and find redemption.
Not Easily Broken is not one of these stories. Instead, Dave is a nearly flawless man: honorable, kind, gentle, responsible and loyal. Although Clarice is an attractive woman, we don't really spend any time with her until after she has mysteriously transformed into a shrewish bitch who cares more about her career than her relationship with Dave. This distinction between them is almost parodic it is so emphasized, and it means that his only real flaw is the inability to bail before suffering through years of sitcom-inspired relationship hell. Her transition back from being such a shrew is equally sudden and mysterious, but very convenient for the plot.
It also tries to be a comedy and an emotionally charged drama at the same time. Every now and then, a filmmaker can balance those two tones properly, but Bill Duke does not belong on that list. Here, the comedy falls completely flat, and Duke tries to compensate for the weak script by pushing the emotional intensity of every scene up to 11. When everything sorts itself out much too easily at the end, it reveals the shallowness of the emotional content. This is a pathetic story, and a pathetic film.
Running underneath the emotionally overcharged structure is a shocking dose of '50s era sexism. Dave is portrayed as weak because he's not the main breadwinner in the family. Clarice is punished for being more successful than her husband, and uninterested in bearing children. The ultimate message is that both of these people need to get in line and play out their proper roles. Not Easily Broken is a religious film as well, but it skirts around its theology as though it were ashamed of its heritage. God is barely even mentioned until the last 30 minutes of the film, when all of the sudden religion takes over all 8 cylinders and guns for the finish line.
Despite the weakness of the film, Sony has done a decent job with the DVD transfer. The colors are vivid, even oversaturated at times, but the picture quality is uniformly excellent. Shadow detail is good as well. The sound quality is fine, with no sequences requiring any more than shrill dialogue and music. There's a production featurette that's as old-fashioned as the film itself, as well as some deleted scenes.
I think the people involved in the production of Not Easily Broken had their hearts in the right place. It's true that a lot of people do struggle with these issues, but instead of portraying them with sincerity and humanity, the exaggeration here turns a genuine attempt to face a societal problem into a parody of the issue. It's a shame, since I do like a number of the people involved. Still, I can't really recommend Not Easily Broken to anyone. There are better comedies available, as well as better films that have handled these issues.
Dave's not guilty, but everyone else is. I'm sending Not Easily Broken
for some serious marriage counselling.
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