Good Deeds is simultaneously both archetypal Tyler Perry and another step in the direction of nuance and thoughtfulness for the filmmaker, and as such a triumphant middle finger in the air at the current, condescending discussions on the public airwaves about personal responsibility and self-reliance. Lindsey Wakefield (Thandie Newton) is Perry’s latest proverbial soul slipped through the cracks, a working mom walking a tightrope of unyielding necessities bestowed onto her through the kind of tragedy that the likes of Fox News would like you to think never happens to anyone who didn’t already have it coming to them. Perry himself plays Wesley Deeds, a wealthy and secure business owner who inherited virtually everything in his life, from the family company down to his marital plans and eating habits. Fate sees these individual bookends of the class system intersect in ways that disrupt their expectations, refresh a sense of lingering humanity, and challenge the thickheadedness of those who’ve yet to fully appreciate the ramifications of living in a round world.
For a time, it seems like Good Deeds is going to tread into the ungodly bay of romantic contrivance, but this quickly proves to be a needless concern brought about less by Perry’s storytelling than by the expectations instilled by countless lesser dramas. Rather, Perry’s considerate plotting is deliberate, perhaps even overlong, but with an attuned sense of people’s evolving feelings and relationships—the generally good and invaluable capacity for change. Perry is a populist storyteller and playwright, and his tendency to play to the back row remains a bit of a sore thumb here, particularly in the form of Wesley’s brother, Walter (Brian J. Wright, all scowled up with no place to go), a hotheaded former heir to the CEO throne who tells off his mother in public and can’t drive due to his multiple DUIs, among other shorthand characteristics. Graciously, this is but a speed bump in the structured but organically textured narrative landscape. Arguably Perry’s best film yet, Good Deeds is a poignant quotidian reflection on those most basic and frequently unanswered, even unasked questions: Who are we, where do we come from, and where we are going?