Diary Of A Mad Black Woman

on February 25, 2005 by Bridget Byrne
"Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is a mess, at war with itself in a way that is uncomfortable rather than compelling. Its clashes of tone -- slapstick comedy, serious drama, icky romance, heavy-handed social commentary, religious devotion, etc., etc., etc. -- undercut rather than crystallize any potential strength of its storylines and acting performances.

Kimberly Elise is a wonderful actress, but she's awkward her as Helen, jilted after years of conscientious devotion to her husband, wealthy huckster lawyer Charles, played by another talent, Steve Harris. Both these actors are usually heartwrenching in roles that require a righteous indignation about any absence of human rights, but here what they are mainly given to do comes off as plain silly or downright mean.

Nobody in the movie seems to know quite what sentiment he or she should be channeling at any given moment -- except for the he-playing-she Tyler Perry as Madea, the caricature of a big, bold, vulgar grandmother. It looks like fun to dress up and act like a pantomime dame, but it completely squashes and unbalances any other feelings -- including genuine laughter -- that might have secured a modicum of impact if he wasn't so over the top. He's no more convincing as the grungy old uncle, whereas he's okay in the naturalistic role of Helen's cousin, Brian, who has his own unhappiness to deal with.

Director Darren Grant is also tripped up by the whole eclectic bag of tricks in this screen adaptation of Tyler's play, seeming always a beat or two off in his efforts to move effectively between the crude overlaid comedy and the ugly underlying drama as the movie stumbles along, blinkered by its own self-satisfaction. Starring Kimberly Elise, Steve Harris, Tyler Perry, Cicely Tyson, Shemar Moore, Tamara Taylor and Lisa Marcos. Directed by Darren Grant. Written by Tyler Perry. Produced by Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon. A Lions Gate release. Drama/Comedy. Rated PG-13 for drug content, thematic elements, crude sexual references and some violence. Running time: 116 min

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