Helen (Kimberly Elise) appears to live a charmed life. She has been married for 18 years to a successful attorney named Charles (Steve Harris), spending her days in a luxurious mansion and enjoying all the goodness that money has to offer. But as she so eloquently points out, looks can be deceiving. Her husband speaks adoringly of her in public, even raising a glass at an honorary reception and saying he’d never have made it without her love. Fast forward to later that night on their anniversary, where he harshly orders her to “Get out of the car”, and proceeds to spend the evening on another woman’s sheets.
The following morning, Helen wakes up, and receives three hefty blows to the head—her marriage is over, another woman is moving into her house, and she has to leave without any of her belongings. When she bursts into a fit of hysterics, Charles does what any gentleman would do: he drags her out kicking and screaming and dumps her on the front porch. A U-Haul is waiting for her outside, equipped with hunky driver Orlando (Shemar Moore). He immediately finds himself smitten with her. And who could blame him? There is nothing more attractive than a woman experiencing an emotional episode provoked by another man.
With no place to call home, Helen travels to the opposite end of her universe, also known as the ghetto, and stays with her Grandma “Madea” (Tyler Perry). Imagine Chris Tucker playing Mrs.Doubtfire, and you’ll wind up with the character of Madea. She is a drag-wearing, pot-smoking, gun-toting, speed-racing, foul-mouthed, high-pitched wonder. The only thing less funny than a man in drag, is…well, nothing. Not only that but Uncle Joe (Perry, once again) is crashing at her place, and his hobbies include farting, spewing fat mama jokes, and propositioning members of his own family. What was intended to play as comedy, backfires instead into a grating offensive mess of negative representations.
The romantic storyline between Helen and Orlando is nothing short of excruciating. They have zero chemistry, proving once again that sticking two beautiful actors in a movie together doesn’t guarantee heat. To add to the mess, Orlando is chock-full of lame romantic clichés. His dialogue ranges from “This feels like a fairytale” to “I want to be your knight in shining armor.” I certainly would have choked on my popcorn, had I been eating any. Not one line he uttered rang true, and all of their encounters felt sloppily scripted. The ridiculous corny music overlaying Orlando and Helen’s scenes together only increased my already abundant supply of eye-rolling.
Kimberly Elise has done excellent work in other movies such as Oprah’s Beloved, but here she seems like a lost wounded dog trying to find her way around a barbed wire fence. This is certainly not her fault, since she is given absolutely nothing to work with. Her eyes do express great pain and longing, and she seems to be desperately in search of something—a new agent, perhaps—but I have faith she will compensate for this blip on her resume in the future. Tyler Perry, while a very talented playwright, apparently was not able to transfer these skills to the big screen. The movie is pitched as a kooky grandma helping a heartbroken divorcee ‘find herself’, but actually, I can’t recall a single genuine moment between the two of them. The grandma served no purpose other than as a failed attempt at comic relief. I am convinced that the brilliant Cicely Tyson, in a supporting throwaway role, was either hypnotized into taking this part or accidentally stumbled onto the wrong movie set.
Diary of A Mad Black Woman has no idea what kind of film it wanted to be, and fails at every genre it tries to tackle. The dramatic scenes are laughable, the comedic scenes painful, and the romantic scenes cringe-worthy. There is even a highly undeveloped crime subplot dealing with one of Charles’s clients that feels entirely out of place. The film takes a very bizarre and distasteful turn in the last stretch, reminiscent of Kathy Bates back when she was still being offered leading roles. I cannot say with certainty what the filmmakers were hoping to accomplish with this movie, but I do know that it’s one diary you’ll wish you left rotting on the shelf with the other dust collectors.
Reviewed By: Lexi Feinberg