Not easily broken

If there is one B.O. trend lately that has gone virtually silently, it’s the quiet rise of the inspirational movie. This trend turned Tyler Perry into the least talked-about B.O. star in America. It’s most recently been seen in the word-of-mouth success of “Fireproof,” a firefighter film that has no buzz, no stars (unless you love “Growing Pains” enough to count Kirk Cameron), and unexpectedly okay B.O. returns.

So perhaps it isn’t a surprise to see spiritual adviser/multimedia superstar T.D. Jakes enter this field. “Not Easily Broken,” his second foray into film, has him taking on roles as producer, co-writer, author of the source material, and an onscreen presence.

Directed by Bill Duke, “Not Easily Broken” is a melodrama, targeted toward black audiences, that details a quietly fizzling marriage between David (Chestnut), a former baseball player sidelined by injury and his perky, fussy realtor wife (Henson). He wants a family. She wants a nice career and lifestyle. For fun, he plays basketball with the boys and coaches a baseball team.

For fun, she hassles everyone. When she injures herself in an auto accident, he takes a friendly interest in her physical therapist and her child. This doesn’t sit well with her suspicious mother. Say what you will about his filmmaking knowledge, but Jakes knows marriage and the accompanying male expectations. He wouldn’t be in the business he’s in if he did not. Yet advising millions of people is about dealing in generalities. The best art is about finding specifics. These aims are at cross-purposes.

Any film with more than one emergency room visit must be considered a cheesy melodrama. Somehow “Not Easily Broken” manages to be cheesy and emotionally honest at the same time. I think it does pretty well in achieving direct tenderness, the key trait of melodrama as identified by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Actually, it might be very interesting to see what Fassbinder would do with the same story, rife as it is with implications of class, race, and love. But this isn’t that film.

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