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Dustin Putman

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Diary of a Mad Black Woman  (2005)
2 Stars
Directed by Darren Grant.
Cast: Kimberly Elise, Steve Harris, Shemar Moore, Tyler Perry, Lisa Marcos, Tamara Taylor, Cicely Tyson, Terrell Carter, Carol Mitchell-Leon, Avery Knight, Vickie Eng, Tiffany Evans, Gary Sturgis, Chandra Currelley-Young.
2005 – 116 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for drug content, thematic elements, crude sexual references and some violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 4, 2013.
The feature debut of playwright Tyler Perry and the first film in a series featuring his tell-it-like-it-is Madea character, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" came to theaters in February 2005 and instantly captured the attention of an underserved audience. Earning over $50-million in the U.S. on a tight $5.5-million budget, the picture bulldozed its way past the loftiest of expectations and single-handedly turned Tyler Perry into a lucrative brand name that continues to do bang-up business almost nine years later. Made before the franchise broke into the mainstream, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" proves unsuspectingly innocent and pleasantly disarming. An oddball hybrid of weepy melodrama, broad comedy and faith-based, feel-good sentiment, the movie's tonal shifts are often jarring and there are easily a handful of groan-worthy moments. Look beyond this, however, and one finds a fair and truthful story about self-empowerment and the value of human compassion.

Kimberly Elise (2010's "For Colored Girls") delivers a beautifully modulated performance—sympathetic, vulnerable, ferocious—as Helen McCarter, the kept wife of wealthy attorney Charles (Steve Harris) who sees the life she has built for herself collapse in an instant when she is thrown out of their home to make way for his longtime mistress (Lisa Marcos) and secret lovechild. Having turned her back on her family to appease Charles in their 18-year marriage, Helen ends up on the doorstep of her pistol-packing grandmother, Madea (Tyler Perry). As Helen struggles to find her way as an independent woman, she becomes suspicious when nice-guy Orlando (Shemar Moore) takes a liking to her. In order to move on, however, she will eventually have to learn to trust men again and realize they are not all like her tyrannical, unfeeling husband.

Directed by Darren Grant, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" isn't subtle and wears its bleeding heart and Christian faith on its sleeve. Subplots feel tacked-on, especially one involving Madea's grown nephew, Brian (Tyler Perry, again), and his semi-estranged, drug-addicted wife, Debrah (Tamara Taylor), and film references both intentional and derivative (from "The Color Purple" to "An Officer and a Gentleman") are plentiful. Kimberly Elise anchors the narrative's overstuffed nature with a turn both poignant and alive, and the sometimes tough places her character goes as she seeks closure from Charles and learns to rely on herself aren't always as preordained as anticipated. It is a film full of jagged edges, but one that is sincere and beguiling at its core.
© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman