As opening credits rolled for Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the audience was gently transported from their cranberry colored theater seats into a film that is reminiscent of a classic fairy tale.
This opening foreshadowed Helen McCarter’s (Kimberly Elise) personal journey toward fairy tale happiness. However, this was just the beginning. The film draws the audience into a tumultuous high and low sojourn through rejection and acceptance, anger and peace, love and revenge, redemption and self-recovery.
Adapted from Tyler Perry’s popular play, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, was written by Perry and directed by Darren Grant. Perry himself plays three of the characters, including Helen’s grandmother.
Diary of a Mad Black Woman is set in Atlanta, Ga., where on her 18th wedding anniversary, Helen returns to her grandeur estate to find a hired Orlando (Shemar Moore) piling her belongings into a U-Haul. Confused and blinded by love, Helen ignores the obvious and waits all dressed up with nowhere to go for her husband Charles (Steve Harris) to return. The wealthy prominent lawyer does return, but with a new woman Brenda (Lisa Marcos), who secretly bore him two boys, in tow. Without warning Charles literally throws the unwilling and hysterical Helen out on the street.
It is at this moment when the theater came to a hush and the audience, myself included, unmistakably cried. It was only 15 minutes into the film.
Helen makes her way unprepared in the middle of the night to her grandmother Madea (Tyler Perry) and Uncle Joe’s (Tyler Perry) home. Here Helen begins to pick up the pieces of her life. The coarse, outspoken, gun-toting Madea offers Helen both her kindness and her ferocity. Helen is also supported by her God-fearing mother Myrtle (Cicely Tyson). There at Madea’s house, an angry and stuck Helen looks out on her joyous family at a barbecue and she asks herself, “How do I get to that place?” Helen uses her diary as a palate on which to purge her emotions and thoughts; here she ponders her life and the peculiarities of appearance verses reality, sex verses intimacy and trust verses faith.
Helen is not the only one in this film who has to heal. Her cousin Brian (Tyler Perry), a spiritual father of two, has to find his own way to forgive his wife Debrah (Tamara Taylor). Debrah is a junkie that also had to find her way.
At first glance, the film may appear cliche and melodramatic, but it is a film that imitates life, as life is often cliche and melodramatic. It captures the multi-dimensional elements of human experience.
It is a story about the human tendency to fall, and the ability to rise up again and find peace, faith, freedom and self-with a surprising twist toward the end.
Diary of a Mad Black Woman will no doubt make you laugh hysterically, cry deeply and smile widely. The film embodies a comment that Madea made to her grandson Brian, “Love is stronger than any addiction-hell it is one!”
Denae Patterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.