Tyler Perry, Kimberly Elise, Cicely Tyson, Steve Harris
"Diary of a Mad Black Woman" Review
Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is one of THOSE films.
No, silly, I'm not talking about yet another African-American film content to be about African-Americans and devoid of anything resembling cinematic value.
I'm talking about THOSE films that are "love em' or hate em' films." "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is a "love it or hate it" film that certainly is an indicator that Tyler Perry is a talented man, however, it's also a strong indicator that he may have a problem with letting his ego get the best of him.
"Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is based upon Tyler's own play. Does your city get these plays? They nearly always play in small auditoriums, are frequently musicals, and are almost always centered around Christianity and the African-American community. Black churches adore them and they've traveled the circuit for years. It was almost inevitable that we would get a film based on one of the plays.
"Diary of a Mad Black Woman" centers around Helen and Charles McCarthy, a couple that have been married for 18 years when, not so suddenly, Charles kicks out Helen and announces he will divorce her. With nowhere to turn, Helen goes to her grandmother Madea's home, gets back into church, meets another man and learns about life, moving on, God, forgiveness, etc.
Kimberly Elise, fresh from her outstanding performance in "Woman Thou Art Loosed", is hindered by a MUCH more cliche'd script here and a character that is your basic wandering Christian. It's challenging to explain the differences between "Loosed" and this film, but I'd suffice it to say that this film feels less authentic and considerably more forced. Thus, Elise's dramatic crescendos feel uncomfortable and inappropriate at times.
Steve Harris plays Charles, and most of the time resembles a playboy version of the father on "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." I kept waiting for Will Smith to pop out and start singing "Parents Just Don't Understand."
Perhaps my biggest complaint with "Diary" is in the performance of Perry himself. Rather unwisely, Perry has chosen to take on three of the roles in this film including the Godawful portrayal of Grandmother Madea. This sort of stunt casting can be, at times, quite wonderful and works fairly well in theatre. It does not work well in "Diary" and primarily distracts from the serious themes of the film. Perhaps had this sort of casting not been done in "Big Momma's House" previously, then this may have worked. Yet, almost every time Medea was onscreen I found myself saying "That's one ugly man." It's hard to catch the dramatic impact of a film when those thoughts keep infiltrating. Perry also portrays Brian and Joe, however, these performances are less over-the-top and thus less obnoxious in presentation.
The film is blessed with the presence of Cicely Tyson, who apparently was desperately for one last cinematic fling. Here's hoping this isn't a final production as this is a horrid way to be remembered...Tyson is fine in the film, but the film is not worthy of Tyson.
Darren Grant directs the film, and why Perry didn't just go ahead and direct is simply bizarre. He clearly had a unique vision for the film, but then he puts the vision in someone else's hands? Bizarre decision. Grant's background was primarily as a video director, and he's woefully inadequate here.
In a world where so many high quality films struggle to attract anything resembling decent box office, I am completely baffled that a film such as "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" can come away with a gross that is ten times its production budget. I find that completely baffling. Perhaps the mediocrity of this film can best be summed up by noting the film portrayed African Americans positively, exhibited positive values AND made money and still didn't even merit an NAACP Image Award nomination. It did, however, garner a nomination for Perry as Breakthrough Male on the MTV Movie Awards.