For the life of me, I just can't get the ending to Tyler Perry's Temptation out of my head. It's become an unhealthy obsession.
Please understand: I don't dislike Tyler Perry. But I dislike the ending to Tyler Perry's Temptation very much. So let's go ahead and spoil it.
There are four main characters: a married couple, Judith and Brice (played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Lance Gross); a woman who works at a pharmacy with Brice named Melinda (Brandy Norwood); and the third-most-successful social-media entrepreneur in the world, Harley (Robbie Jones).
Long story short (really long, I should add): Harley seduces Judith and together they indulge in lots of extramarital sex and cocaine (well, we think; she certainly sniffs a lot now). While this is happening, nice guy Brice remains attuned to life's simple pleasures: his wife's cooking, and sex in the missionary position (and only the missionary position).
Then there's Judith's mother, Ms. Sara (Ella Joyce), who is extremely religious and admonishes Judith for wanting more out of life than cooking for her husband and having sex in the missionary position. Brice does little to shield Judith from these attacks, and I, for one, felt some sympathy for Judith. Life is complicated and, yes, nice people fall in and out of love.
In the narrative of this movie, however, Judith is unquestionably the villain, and Brice and Ms. Sara are the heroes.
I am not condoning the act of cheating on one's spouse with the third-most-successful social-media entrepreneur in the world. But "Tyler Perry's Temptations" punishes Judith by ... giving her HIV.
That seems quite cruel, for a number of reasons. (At the top of my list: AIDS is a real disease that millions of people struggle with everyday, and yet here it's a comeuppance device on a par with Belloq and Toht's melting faces after looking into the Ark of the Covenant.)
But here's the big twist: pretty much everyone in the movie now has HIV because of his or her infidelity.
Judith has HIV because she slept with Harley. Harley has HIV because he sleeps with everyone (unprotected, we assume). Melinda has HIV because she, too, slept with Harley, even though she was in a relationship with him and, as far as we know, remained loyal to him. Brice does not have HIV, because he did "the right thing." (Of course, Melinda did the right thing, too, though that did not save her from exposure.)
The HIV storyline appears to exist for the sake of shock value. Throughout the movie, Melinda hints at having left behind an abusive relationship, and simple math involving male cast members makes it easy to deduce that the abusive ex would turn out to be Harley. This was a red herring. Before making that obvious reveal, Melinda spills the secret of her HIV infection -- which comes out of absolutely nowhere. This is the moment that I cannot stop thinking about. After learning this, Brice drives to Harley's house to rescue Judith -- literally carrying her out of the house. She's been beaten to a pulp by Harley for threatening to leave him.
I have spent a grand total of 10 minutes and 57 seconds alone with Tyler Perry. I found him to be an affable, even warm, fellow, but I can't claim to know much about his true motivations. Still, I can't help but draw one of two conclusions: Either Perry believes that if you cheat on your partner, you deserve a terrible disease or he believes that the people he hopes will pay money to see Tyler Perry's Temptation believe that if you cheat on your spouse, you deserve a terrible disease. I can't decide which is worse.
(I do fear that I will forever be labeled "Guy who thinks cheating on a spouse is cool.")
Here's the worst part -- I can't remember the last time I've seen a character treated so horribly in a movie, yet Temptation presents this as reasonable requital. We already know that, as a result of cheating on her husband, Judith has been physically abused and has contracted HIV, but in the last scene of the film (set some time in the future, with the characters wearing white powder in their hair to represent aging), we see just how seriously Judith has been punished. Judith literally hobbles into the pharmacy where Brice works, leaving the audience to wonder if things perhaps worked out for the pair. Is she going to see Brice? Well, yes, she is. But only to pick up her HIV medication. The two discuss her T-cell count, as divorced couples often do.
Judith leaves as Brice's beautiful new wife (who enjoys the missionary position, I presume) and kids greet him. Brice is the clear-cut "winner." The credits roll as Judith, battered and sick, hobbles down the sidewalk, alone. Judith is the clear-cut "loser." And, we are led to believe, Judith will continue to lose. Because she once cheated on her husband.
Tyler Perry's Temptation made $22.3 million over the weekend. Perhaps we have all lost.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.