Diary of a Mad Black Woman (Darren Grant) 2005

I have never seen a Madea movie, yet I have talked a lot of shit about it.  And before I be labeled a hypocrite for slamming something I have not seen, I thought in the spirit of Black History month I would review a Madea movie.  Why?  Well because many claim Tyler Perry to be one of the only voices for African American cinema today.  So I figured I would take her first and probably most recognized film to review.  Now I really only intended to watch the movie and do the full review.  Buuuuut, it only took me ten minutes into the movie before I was so worked up I had to put fingers to keys.  So, I guess I have to post my thoughts of the movie as I go through.

Everyone talks about the melodrama in Tyler Perry movies but you don’t quite understand until you actually see one of these movies how bad it truly is.  In the beginning of the movie Helen bemoans the fact that while they live in a mansion and her husband is a successful lawyer that she doesn’t know who this man is she’s married to.  At least I am thinking there is going to be some subtlety to this story like he is just too busy for her.  There are some people (don’t mean to paint with a broad brush stroke) sometimes from an older generation that see love as supporting your family financially.  They will work themselves to death to make sure their families are in a nice home and their children are secure and do not want for anything.  While they may not be there in a completely parental sense they are showing their love through giving them something maybe they didn’t have as a kid.  I’m not saying that’s wrong; just how some people see it.  Other people see love as being there to spend time with them and showing affection through time and not money.  The point of this tangent about talking about sociological differences is that you can have a movie about a couple that drifts apart not because one is a bastard but because of differences in their upbringing and beliefs.  But here is the very first exchange between our married couple.  See the subtlety in action:

Helen: How bout I run us a hot bath?
Charles: I left something at the office. I have to go.
Helen: Who is she?
Charles: When you get a job that pays one of these bills, then you can ask me questions.
Helen: I’m still your wife.
Charles: *chuckles* That’s cute.
Helen: Charles I don’t want to fight. This is your night let’s just enjoy it. Tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it.
Charles: You really want to know what you want to do? *opens car door* Get the hell out of my car.

Wow.  In case you didn’t get Helen is the wounded flower trying to make the marriage work and Charles is an evil prick then just wait another five minutes.  In the following scenes Charles moves Helen’s stuff out of his mansion and moves in the woman he is currently having an affair with.  Of course, he doesn’t tell Helen until he takes his new girl home to knock boots in their old bed.  Charles then tells Helen to get in the UHAUL truck where he paid the driver to take her anywhere in the country and physically DRAGS HER OUT OF THE HOUSE KICKING AND SCREMING AND LOCKS THE DOOR BEHIND HIM!!!

Holy crap!  Could you make that scene any more melodramatic and over the top?  The only way I can is if Helen stated she was pregnant and Charles said “Oh no you don’t” and booted her in the stomach.  Keep in mind people, this is not supposed to be over the top like it is a farce.  No, these scenes are played as straight faced as possible and we are supposed to be deeply concerned for the characters.

That is my first problem when we come upon Madea.  We are expected to jump from extreme melodrama to high camp that you get whiplash.

Ten minutes down…an hour and 40 minutes to go.

So we finally come across Madea who is Helen’s aunt (I think).  She is apparently an amalgam of Perry’s real life aunt and grandmother.  She is a no nonsense woman who is willing to speak her mind no matter what.  More problems arise with her appearing.  The first is what I already mentioned.  Madea is simply too much of a character to be in a movie like this.  If the A plot was anything more light or whimsical then I could perfectly accept her entrance but it is just so jarring.  And it is not like it would be so hard to have the same A plot but to play it in a lighter tone.  It would however require a skilled writer and that is something this movie is lacking.  This is why I would think the Madea thing works better as a stand up act rather than a feature movie.  It is one thing to be up on a stage telling funny stories of your crazy Madea growing up and quite another to make a Christian themed melodrama and include Madea humor.  I’m not saying you couldn’t do one or the other, but you can’t do both at the same time.

Another problem crops up when I see that Perry is taking the Eddie Murphy route and is playing multiple characters all in different stages of make up.  This frustrated me with Murphy and it is no better with Perry.  I understand they both want to show producers and audiences they are good actors and can play different characters (in this case not being typecast as Madea).  But in the end it smacks of a certain kind of ego that really gets under my skin.  To me it is them saying “Oh look how great and funny I am.  I don’t even need anyone else.  I could make an entire movie where I play all the parts and you would love it because I am Tyler Perry; the God of comedy!”  Again, I know it is nothing that bad, I just find it an annoying practice.

So Helen tells Madea she did her best but Charles abused her both physically and mentally the past 18 years and due to the fact she signed a pre-nup she is not entitled to a dime.  Madea promptly parrots the audience reaction and tells Helen she is a rather pathetic woman and she needs to get what’s owed.  They go over and confront Charles and his skank and Madea chainsaws many of the pieces of furniture in half.  Where Madea pulled a chainsaw out of I’ll never know.  Maybe it is the same place where Duncan McCleod pulled the katana out of when he just got out of a shower one episode.  I’m getting sidetracked though.  I will admit I can see why people can like the Madea character.  In a way, she is the lone voice bitching about how stupid the plot is mirroring my reactions to an inanimate television screen.  Somehow though, I don’t think that was what was intended.

Anyway, we cut to a scene where Charles meets with a frantic drug dealer in a back alley.  Apparently this dealer killed an undercover cop and wants Charles to bribe a judge to get him off.  When Charles says he would rather not do that, the dealer threatens him (with an over the top Emperor Palpatine like voice) that Charles essentially owes him because he set up Charles with all the cocaine trafficking he did for him.  You have no idea how many times I facepalm when I write down what is going on with the A plot.  This is so stupid and over the top I cannot believe people wrote this with a straight face.  All I can say is Steve from TV’s “The Practice” has fallen a long way.  I really wish I was watching the Practice right now.

So Helen goes to visit her mother who is in a home.  Apparently Charles is enough of a bastard he is not content with screwing up Helen’s life but will not pay to keep her mother in the home.  Can we just admit it here?  Charles is Hitler reincarnated.  All he needs to do is grow a small Chaplin mustache and make skin lamps and the picture will be complete.  Subtlety movie!  I need subtlety!

So we finally get to the Christian preaching side.  Helen says the break up is especially hard because Charles was her “everything”.  Mom gets pissed saying God is everything and God is a jealous god and does not like Helen putting a man in front of Him.  I really won’t go too deep into that other than saying the Bible does command wives to be subservient to men and not exactly something promoting feminism.  I will simply accept it to be mom telling her daughter to believe in something other than a drug dealing, physically abusive, elderly abusive, skin lamp making, morally reprehensible adulterer like Charles.  That’s something I think people of any faith can go for.

So Helen gets a job and an apartment and is trying to move on with her life.  She even meets Orlando who is very sweet on her despite being bitter and resentful at him for no reason whatsoever.  Despite that, they eventually warm to one another.  A subplot then shoves its way into our movie.  Madea is helping a druggie who also happens to be the former wife of Brian (Tyler Perry without any makeup).  We are then subjected to pure torture in the form of a montage with the soul rendition of “What if God was one of us?” I would personally rather hear nails on a chalkboard with the sound of sawing through Styrofoam than hearing to that song but that’s just me.

Now Orlando and Helen are fully and love and Helen believes he is the perfect man (uh oh, here comes the plot contrivance).  Meanwhile evil drug dealer is convicted of murder.  On his way out, drug dealer grabs a deputies gun and shoots Charles.  I am fairly confident in calling complete and total bullshit on that one.  For one, firearms of any kind are not permitted in many courtrooms.  But I am willing to over look that since it is not even a hard rule in my own state.  But this is a capital case involving a murder of a POLICE OFFICER.  Believe me when I say at all times he would have five officers (at least) just waiting (praying in fact) for the opportunity to whoop his ass.  Any overt movement or even the idea in one officers head of an overt movement and the prisoner would be spending the next few months in traction.  I cannot stress enough how much this scene is bullshit.

But we need this plot contrivance for the “drama”.  Helen rushes to Charles’ side in the hospital and Charles gets his comeuppance for being such an asshole.  The bullet is near Charles’ spine and Charles’ hoochie gives the order to kill Charles (since he would not want to live without the ability to walk).  Oh my god this movie is so ludicrous I am getting red marks from all the facepalms.  This is so…you can’t…fuck it let’s move on.  Helen rushes in and tells the nurse she is his wife and to keep him alive.

Next on The Practice: Steve becomes a born again Christian.

We then get to one of the more reprehensible parts of the whole movie.  Charles only has the ability to use his head and cannot do anything for himself.  As they would say in Wolf Creek, he is a head on a stick.  Helen takes Charles back to his mansion.  She then starves him and makes him live in his own feces for several days.  Helen then nearly drowns him in the tub to teach him the errors of his ways.  This is a horror movie.  We have officially crossed over into horror movie territory.  This is unlawful, this is evil, this is repugnant, and it is ugly because we are supposed to sympathize with Helen.

We are coming on one of my last problems with this movie.  This is a Madea movie, yet we only get about 15 minutes of her in a two hour movie.  This is like watching an Ernest movie and having 10 minutes of Ernest with an hour and a half of melodrama about abortions.

Everyone then has a talk with Helen.  They are not quite upset with Helen over the fact she is torturing Charles in the basement but rather they just want her to move on with her life.  Talk about not getting the freaking point.

So Helen goes back and both Helen and Charles forgive one another.  I guess Steven Seagal was right in On Deadly Ground.  Beating someone to a bloody pulp does cure people of being evil.  So anyway, Charles learns to walk and finds Jesus, druggie goes into rehab and finds Jesus, Brian let’s his daughter sing in the choir and um, still believes in Jesus, and Helen and Orlando get back together and find Jesus.  The end.

Wow, this was waaaaaay longer than I ever thought this review would be.  Now to give this movie the tiniest bit of credit this is completely African American cinema.  Tyler Perry is free to make movies on his own with no studio interference with whatever cast he wants which speaks to primarily his audience.  Hopefully these movies are the precursor to some minority directors really getting their start.  I will also say Madea is a somewhat likable character despite being in these movies for only like ten minutes at a time.

However, that being said, this is some of the worst writing I have seen in a movie in quite some time.  These words barely scratch the surface of what the story is: cliché, overwrought, unbelievable, melodramatic, overdone.  That is being generous.  This plot is clown shoes.  High school English students could probably do better.  You get the idea.  This movie was a trial to get through but I made it.  May I never see another Madea movie as long as I live cause believe it or not, the movies get more melodramatic from here.

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