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Wed February 23, 2005
Diary of a Mad Black Woman
Easy laughs and easier moralizing.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Sweet is revenge--especially to women." Lord Byron
In Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the Bible singing choir and the Baptist Church service are about the only authentically artistic parts of this Lifetime-channel-like drama/comedy about an upper-class black wife tossed out of her sumptuous Atlanta home by her philandering but powerful lawyer husband. Perhaps her having no pre-nuptial agreement is a realistic element that helps balance this otherwise ham-handed Christian "values" film.
Dutiful wife Helen (Kimberley Elise) eventually is able to pull a modest "Misery" turn of the tables on her husband, Charles (Steve Harris), in a hypocritical nod to those in the audience moved more by "an eye for an eye" than "turn the other cheek." Helen also takes up with a hunky steelworker to confuse those fundamentalists who believe in the immutable bond of matrimony. Grandma Madea (Tyler Perry) carries a sizeable gun in her purse, brandishing it more than once to make her point. If this all seems too secular, Helen's voiceover supplies rationales and excuses for the family in a Christian context. It's clear she is preaching to us; it's not clear that anyone is listening given that most in the audience can't wait for the revenge Madea is capable of delivering.
Perry, playwright and player, is an eccentric delight playing three roles mostly responsible for Diary's light moments. His Madea is so spiritedly funny and mischievous, he almost saved the film from oblivion.
Alas, Diary eschews exploring the complexities of modern divorce in favor of easy laughs and easier moralizing about the Christian way to live a life anchored in forgiveness of the wrongdoer and oneself. The conflicting revenge and forgiveness motifs aren't reconciled beyond an ending determined from the beginning of this tired formula.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.