A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the first in a long series of movies featuring Tyler Perry's character Madea, includes painful confrontations, violence (including shooting and assault), drinking, drug use, and sexual references. One strength of the movie is its unabashed portrayal of religious conviction as a mainstay for believers. Another is its depiction of the careful consideration and commitment that should be involved in deciding when to become sexually involved. The movie also benefits from its portrayal of strong and devoted women and African-American characters.
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What's the story?
In DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, Helen (Kimberly Elise) understands that her wealthy husband Charles (Steve Harris) is all about surfaces; she is less aware of that quality in herself. He wins a prestigious attorney-of-the-year award and thanks her from the podium. When they are alone, however, he is cruel, rejecting her offer of a romantic evening and reminding her that he owns everything and she has nothing. Charles has cut her off from everyone and kept her inside the ostentatiously luxurious mansion like a princess in a tower. Charles hires a truck to load Helen's things and move her out of the house so that his mistress and their children can move in. Helen has nowhere to go. The handsome and sympathetic truck driver, Orlando (Shemar Moore), tries to help, but Helen is so angry and terrified she cannot accept it. Finally, she goes to her outspoken but generous-hearted grandmother, Madea, played by writer/producer Tyler Perry. Perry also plays Madea's salty brother-in-law and Helen's saintly cousin Brian.
Is it any good?
This movie never decides what it wants and what it is. Helen has to deconstruct her life and rebuild from the inside out. She gets a job as a waitress and visits her mother (Cecily Tyson) in a nursing home. She is at first angry with Orlando, then too proud to accept his help and unable to believe that any man could be good to her, but finally ready to give and accept love. Then Charles comes back into her life. This time he needs her. Helen has to decide what she wants and who she is. The movie tries to have it both ways, asking us to root for Helen when she is a pious victim and a, well, "mad black woman." It teeters unsteadily between crude humor and soulful faith.
Elise is a lovely actress who looks exquisite as she suffers and she makes the most of the soapy melodrama. Moore is an appealing knight in shining armor and Tyson, as always, adds some class. Perry's wild caricature of a drag performance as Madea seems to be from an entirely different movie. If Diary of a Mad Black Woman had been written by white people, the portrayal would have been called racist, sexist, and just plain embarrassing. Perry's old man is a one-joke dud, but his role as Brian shows some presence and conviction. One-note characters like the crack addict and the drug dealer probably worked better on stage but just seem cardboard-y on screen. Helen's next diary entry just might be to wish for a better script.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Helen was willing to give up so much of herself for Charles in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. How does his behavior in public differ from his behavior in private?
Do you think the portrayal of Madea is stereotypical? Why do you think some people consider her character racist or sexist?
Why do you think Madea movies are so popular? What are this film's messages about love and family?
- In theaters: February 25, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: June 28, 2005
- Cast: Kimberly Elise, Shemar Moore, Tyler Perry
- Director: Darren Grant
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: drug content, thematic elements, crude sexual references and some violence
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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