Charles (Steve Harris), a successful Atlanta attorney attends an awards dinner in his honor with his wife Helen (Kimberly Elise). Hers is the voice-over as she writes in her diary about her childless marriage of 18 years. On the way home from the dinner, Charles practically pushes Helen out of the car in front of their huge mansion. Helen knows he has a mistress, but he will not admit it.
The next day, their anniversary, Helen takes lunch to Charles at the office and she meets the mistress face-to-face – with two children hanging on to her. Charles sends Helen home to find a U-Haul being loaded with her things. She runs upstairs to confront the maid and sees all new clothes in the closet. She thinks Charles is surprising her. Well, he is, but not in the way she thinks. That night, he literally throws her out of the house.
The driver of the truck offers to take her anywhere she wants to go; then she kicks him out of the truck and goes to her Aunt Madea’s (Tyler Perry) house in the ghetto. Helen’s rage has only begun.
Then the fun begins, but I didn’t expect it (because I had not seen the previews on TV.)
“Diary of a Mad Black Woman” starts out like a quality $14.00 paperback about triumph over tragedy that you just want to savor, and then it turns into a bawdy $7.99 pulp novel. It is the most schizophrenic movie I have ever seen. What’s worse, it works.
I have not seen writer/actor Tyler Perry’s other two films, so I cannot compare them with “Diary.” If you only look at the Madea part of the film, it’s like watching “Big Momma’s House.” The dramatic parts of the film are very fine and made me think of “Waiting to Exhale” without the explicit sexuality. The ending was straight out of “An Officer and a Gentleman.” (And you can tell Madea is a man…)
“Diary” actually tries to be unabashedly moral and Christian; Helen’s new boyfriend offers her intimacy instead of sex, something we don’t often see in films. Though of course the complete moral universe of the film is still flawed, this is one good aspect that provides more material to talk about with family and friends. We are never going to get the perfect film because life is like that, too. Flawed. “Diary” also tells the story of many people who seem to be going through a 12-Step program for any number of reasons: rage, drug abuse, pride, etc.
“Diary” doesn’t know what it is, but in some strange way, the film is effective. Emotionally, the characters are all over the place. Cinema stories aren’t like that because they need an inner logic to keep them together, but life really is all over the map. So maybe Perry got it right.
But he could have made an incredible and memorable film if he had told Helen’s story without the comedy. The title alone is worth an award.