Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace, is a new Netflix movie with a series of surprising plot twists and some completely nonsensical moments (not to mention the ending). Warning: This article contains spoilers.
A Fall From Grace is not based on a true story, although there are some previous cases in the news that bear some resemblance to the plot. The case has a mixture of all stars (Cicely Tyson, Phylicia Rashad), relatively unknown up-and-comers (Bresha Webb), and people we should have seen a lot more of before now (Crystal Fox).
The movie’s plot is difficult to sum up in a paragraph, but here goes: Jasmine Bryant, a jaded public defender (Webb) draws the murder case of a woman, Grace Waters, who is accused of beating her husband to death with a baseball bat. It later turns out that the husband, “Shannon,” was actually the son of the woman’s supposed best friend, “Sarah” (Rashad), and the pair was plotting to defraud Grace of her life savings, job, and even her home. In the end, it turns out that Sarah and Shannon (not their real names) were also hiding chained wealthy, old women in their basement. Wait… what? They’d defrauded them of social security checks.
Sarah is really Betty Mills. Her son is really Maurice Mills. The duo has been kidnapping elderly women, taking their wealth, and holding them hostage for their social security checks. He’s wanted for conning at least 16 middle-aged (or is it elderly?) women. They’ve been at this for over 25 years, stealing millions from their victims. He’s wanted for bigamy and racketeering.
The fan reviews are positive (at least on Twitter), the critics’ reviews not so much, but if you’re looking for a new movie to stream that holds your attention for an afternoon, A Fall From Grace should do the trick. It’s not boring, and some of the acting is very good (Rashad as a snake-like villain, for example.)
However, here are six moments that just really made no sense (remember, the movie was filmed in just five days):
1. How Was the Prosecution Able to Charge Grace With Murder?
Well, as the old saying goes, some prosecutors (or grand juries) could indict a ham sandwich. However, without a body, murder cases are extremely tough to make (although they certainly do happen). Grace didn’t confess or they would have used that confession at trial, and Sarah’s testimony wouldn’t have been the bombshell that it was.
So what evidence did the prosecution have? They had a pool of blood in the home Grace and the victim shared, to be sure, but no body to show the victim was even dead. Beyond that, the movie doesn’t really say.
In addition, why is it a surprise to Jasmine that there’s no body and why does she have to learn this from Sarah? That seems like something that would already be obvious from the charging documents.
Furthermore, how come Jasmine’s awful boss (played by Perry himself) thinks the case is not winnable when there’s….no body? He wants to plead out a murder case with…no body? The prosecutor arrogantly refuses to entertain any leniency in a murder case with…no body?
2. Why Would Jasmine’s Cop Husband Fail to Restrain Sarah?
Granted, by the time Jasmine’s hunky cop husband shows up at Sarah’s door looking for his missing wife, and Sarah has hit him over the head with a frying pan and stuff like that, he’s pretty stressed out (and concerned about his wife’s well-being).
However, would he really be so dumb as to leave Sarah handcuffed in the kitchen and just tell her to stay there, thinking she actually would? Of course, she doesn’t. He’s a cop, and he just uncovered that she’s been chaining women up in her basement. He didn’t call for back up? He didn’t at least handcuff her to a chair?
What cop just leaves a suspect, even a handcuffed one, and asks them to stay put? Jasmine’s husband did the same thing with a suspect he ditched to go rescue Jasmine, by the way. It seems to be a pattern for him.
Come to think of it: Jasmine’s husband figured out Sarah’s nefariousness quickly. The movie skipped over that part pretty quickly. He appears to have figured things out because his wife vanished and then he recalled that she was going to see Sarah. That’s a pretty big leap to suddenly realizing she’s a villain. As an aside, we’re sure some cops are married to some public defenders, but it’s a bit of an unusual pairing. Finally, they skipped over how Jasmine managed to free herself to shoot Shannon pretty quickly.
3. Wouldn’t the Bank Let Grace Know About the Mortgage Documents?
It’s hard to imagine that Shannon could walk into a bank and get a massive mortgage on a home presumably still in his wife’s name (premarital property) without her being informed by the bank.
This wouldn’t get back to her?
After all, she works in a bank.
Granted, the movie tried to explain this away by implying the bank accepted a forged signature by a fake notary, but we don’t know about you but we’re quite aware that banks require scads of in-person signatures from spouses when giving people hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans.
Rotten Tomatoes says Grace is supposed to live in Virginia, a state that has the concept of “separate property” in marriages, defined as “property that belonged only to one spouse before marriage.” Generally, the spouse who had that property before the marriage gets to keep it. Thus, it’s not plausible that a bank let Shannon get away with this. It’s her property, married or not.
4. Wouldn’t Grace Be Arrested for Embezzlement?
Speaking of banks, when Grace’s employer thinks they’ve discovered she’s embezzled thousands of dollars, why wouldn’t they call the police? Instead, they just tell her they figured it out, say they expect the money back, and let her walk out the door, albeit after firing her.
Similarly, the police don’t show realistic reactions when Grace goes to them about her husband’s fraud, and they write it off as a “civil matter.” It’s fraud. It would be criminal in real life. Whether they would believe her could be another story, but what “Shannon” did wasn’t civil. Real-life police would know this.
5. Why Didn’t “Sarah” & “Shannon” Just Chain Grace Up in the Basement?
If you think about it, Shannon marrying Grace – going to all that trouble, really – doesn’t fit the mother-and-son crime duo’s MO. Their MO is to target older wealthy women and chain them up in the basement to get their social security checks.
Even that doesn’t make a lot of sense, come to think of it. Wouldn’t some of the women’s loved ones report them missing? Why would the social security checks still keep coming in such case? Would they really go to all this trouble for social security checks (as opposed to the women’s larger fortunes?)
Granted, Grace wasn’t on social security; she worked at a bank. So, maybe the pair saw the opportunity and used a new approach. However, going to all the trouble of getting married, forging mortgage documents (with surveillance video no less), and crafting a best friendship, seems pretty elaborate. These kinds of sociopaths would be more likely to announce that Grace was taking a leave from her job before emptying out her savings account and new mortgage proceeds and… keeping her chained up in the basement. Or just bumping her off.
That brings up another question: If Sarah and Shannon have already defrauded women out of millions, why aren’t they living more high on the hog?
6. Would Any Attorney Really Fail to Ask a Single Question on Cross Examination
A sympathetic witness suddenly torpedoes your entire case (Sarah saying on the stand that Grace confessed to her), and you, the defense attorney, don’t ask her a single question?
The movie tried to explain away this bizarre decision by Jasmine by having her basically rudely demand that the judge let her cross-examine Sarah the next day after resting her case. He refuses, she insists, and he tosses her in jail, from which she seems to be released fairly quickly. Jasmine suddenly morphing into an awful lawyer doesn’t match her steadfast determination to seek the truth.
We guess this could theoretically happen if a lawyer was surprised and awful enough, but it would make a great ineffective assistance of counsel argument on appeal.
In addition, public defenders taking cases and then feeling pressured to resolve them quickly surely does happen (especially in states where public defenders are overworked due to poor staffing levels), but it’s hard to imagine an attorney’s boss being so blatantly open about it.
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