“Daddy’s Little Girls” is the nearly touching story of a father’s attempts to win custody of his children and for a neighborhood to take back its streets. Written and directed by Tyler Perry, I was surprised by the quality of this movie and the issues it tackles.
When his daughters’ caretaker dies, Monty, Idris Elba’s character, takes custody. The children’s mother fights him and wins temporary custody. The mother, Jennifer, played by Tasha Smith, lives in a big beautiful apartment with her drug dealing boyfriend and exposes the children to her criminal lifestyle. Monty meets Julia, a high priced, successful attorney when he takes a job as her driver. Julia, played by Gabrielle Union, and Monty strike up a romantic relationship when she agrees represents him in his custody suit. The movie also addresses racism and classism between black people through the relationship between Julia and Monty. Julia is very wealthy and Monty is ghetto poor. Julia and Monty’s relationship tries to highlight the way African American people think of each other and how money divides the classes.
Monty’s struggle from visiting dad to father embroiled in a custody fight, helpless and afraid, is riveting. When faced with highly stressful situations he does a poor job of containing his anger and occasionally pops his top. The father’s custody issue is by far the best story in the movie. Idris Elba gives life to this father lost. He has a strong “inner city, of the street vibe” but no “gangsta-thug” feeling. Monty shows us his side of issues including love, poverty, street justice, single fatherhood and anger. The character development is limited but Elba embodied the Monty perfectly.
Even though Gabrielle Union is good as Julia, the script isn’t fair to her. Her shallow understanding of poor people and willingness to dismiss Monty is cliché. In one breath she is snobby and abrasive then all of the sudden she is infatuated by Monty. She refuses to learn from her mistakes, perpetuating the same ones over and over again. The real benefit of Julia to the movie is to understand the class divide. Her privilege shelters her from the community that Monty comes from. As a result, she has predigested ideas about why he might want his children and his behavior.
It’s a shame that Tyler Perry wrote Jennifer, the children’s mother, so poorly. He had the opportunity to write a character rich with complexities and insecurities. Her character is as complicated as vanilla ice cream. She acts like she has never actually been a human being. Her dialogue is shallow and her scenes dreadfully predictable. If a thirteen year old white girl from Beverley Hills tried to write a story about an abusive mother whose boyfriend’s job is “head drug dealer” of the local neighborhood, it would be a carbon copy of what Tyler Perry wrote.
The three daughters China, Sierra and Lauryn are an adorable and charming addition to the cast. Their acting was of the child actor level but they add a humorous sass needed to lighten up the story. Their dramatic scenes are a disappointment and they are so essential to the plot that relying on them for drama was a serious mistake on behalf of the director.
There is a music video slapped right in the middle of the movie. For a few minutes we watch as he sings and people dance in the club. I don’t know if the director was inspired by VH1 videos but it was an inappropriate addition to the film.
Even with the plot flaws and character’s lack of depth, I felt like I was having an experience with these people; until the last half an hour. The ending is where the movie fully implodes. To call it cheesy would be an insult to all bovine byproducts everywhere. I was in desperate need of crackers by the end of “Daddy’s Little Girls.”
The writing in “Daddy’s Little Girls” is almost heartfelt and for the most part is pretty even. There are long stretches in the movie that feel natural. Still, the actors were unable to fully blossom in the darkness of the script. Even though this film did fall short eventually, it wasn’t a complete wash and definitely had more than a few endearing qualities.