Diary of a Mad Black Woman Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/25/2005
The promos for this movie are misleading…Diary of a Mad Black Woman is not a comedy. It is, however, a touching drama about love, betrayal, and forgiveness, with some excellent acting to boot.
Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) is attending the Jacob Feinstein Lawyer of the Year Award banquet ceremony honoring her successful lawyer husband Charles (Steve Harris.) The banquet also marks their 18th year anniversary. They seem like a perfect couple with their big house and fancy clothes, but Charles is actually kind of a jerk. She hasn’t seen any of her family in years, and Charles even put her mother Myrtle (Cicely Tyson) in a nursing home. She had suspicions that Charles was being unfaithful, but she was blissfully unaware of how bad a guy he really was, since she had grown accustomed to the rich lifestyle. Her suspicions are confirmed when she meets Brenda (Lisa Marcos), Charles’s mistress of several years, whom he had fathered children with (she had wanted children, but he supposedly hadn’t.) The next day, Helen discovers a moving truck and all of her possessions in it. Charles comes home and announces that he wants a divorce. He wants to be with Brenda, so he literally throws Helen out of the house. She had foolishly signed a pre-nuptial agreement before she had gotten married to Charles, and being the corrupt lawyer that he was, he left her with nothing, so he was legally able to throw her out. After leaving the house, the man Charles had hired to bring her stuff to wherever she wanted to go, Orlando (Shemar Moore), takes Helen to her family’s old neighborhood. Along the way, she gets in an argument with Orlando and assumes that he is a typical jerk of a male, so she makes him get out of the truck. She takes the truck to her grandmother Madea’s (Tyler Perry) house. Madea is a foul-mouthed, short-tempered, pot-smoking, gun-toting woman who tolerates her brother Joe (also Perry), a “dirty old man” who lives with her. Upset about what Charles did to Helen, Madea takes Helen back to Charles’s house, rips up several of Brenda’s dresses, and then takes a chainsaw to several pieces of furniture, all in the name of revenge. The revenge backfires on Madea, because she is convicted for assault and is placed under house arrest by Judge Mablean Ephriam (playing herself.) Meanwhile, Helen realizes that she needs to get her life back in order, so she stays with Madea and gets a job as a waitress. At a house party at Madea’s house, she asks her lawyer brother-in-law Brian (Perry once again) to defend her in the divorce settlement. Brian has also kicked his wife Debrah (Tamara Taylor), Helen’s sister, out of the house as well, but for different reasons. She had been a singer in the church choir previously, but for unknown reasons, she had become a junkie. Brian didn’t want Debrah to be around their two children, Tiffany (Tiffany Evans) and BJ (Avery Knight), because of her junkie status. Now Tiffany wants to sing in the church choir as well, but Brian doesn’t allow it, because he saw what had happened to her mother. Helen also meets Orlando again at the party, who just happens to be one of Brian’s friends. She makes the same assumptions again, and again they part ways. One night, after finishing a shift at the restaurant that she works for, Orlando notices her out in the rain waiting for a bus. She offers her a ride, and they go to Chandra’s (Chandra Currelley-Young) piano bar restaurant. They end up falling in love, but she still has unresolved issues with Charles. Speaking of Charles, he is forced to defend Jamison Milton Jackson (Gary Sturgis), an old colleague of his, for shooting an undercover cop, because he had run coke for Charles in the past that had allowed the attorney to become rich. After the case goes sour, tragedy happens, and Helen is forced to help Charles out. Orlando is hurt by this turn of events, and Helen has to decide if she wants to be with Orlando or go back to Charles.
This movie is based on the 2000 stage play of the same name and was written by Perry as well. He also played Madea in the play, and apparently, it was a huge hit in Atlanta (forgive me, but I don’t go to a lot of plays often, and I’ve never been to Atlanta, so I’ve never heard of Perry or his work before now.) Furthermore, he wrote the screenplay, but first-time director Darren Grant directed it (I’m surprised that Perry didn’t direct it himself.)
I really liked this movie, once I had realized that it wasn’t a comedy. Sure…Madea was a memorable and funny character, but her being in it felt a little out of place. When they switched to the dramatic part, which is about 75% of what this movie was, the acting was superb. Elise, who recently co-starred with Denzel Washington in last year’s The Manchurian Candidate, does some of her best acting in years. Her chemistry with Moore is smoldering, at least in my opinion. Harris, the former Emmy-nominated actor from ABC’s cancelled series “The Practice,” plays a lawyer again, but he gets to play the bad guy this time instead of the good one, which he succeeds in doing both.
I will admit that the story is a little predictable, but it was one of the first times that I would have been mad to see an unpredictable ending to a movie. I don’t want to give that ending away, but if it had gone any other way than the way it did, I would have felt unfulfilled as a moviegoer.
I don’t know if Perry plans to do more Madea movies, but I hope that he doesn’t get painted into a corner. I love Kevin Smith, but he was in danger of making too many Jay & Silent Bob movies himself, so I hope that Perry doesn’t make the same mistake. Otherwise, if Diary of a Mad Black Woman is a hit, I’d like to see the further adventures of Madea, but please, do me a favor…make it an actual comedy that revolves around the lovable grandmother herself!
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