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Diary of a Mad Black Woman

A Maddeningly Saccharine Mess

Diary of a Mad Black Woman is a film that tries very hard to inspire the audience with the message of 'time heals the heart and faith will heal the rest'. It's a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, poorly developed characters and a contrived plot undermine any attempts at effectively conveying this message. What the audience is left with is a maddeningly saccharine mess.

Helen (Kimberly Elise) lives a glamorous existence with her über successful husband, Charles. (Steve Harris). Helen has been a loving and supportive wife while Charles has built an enormously successful career as a lawyer in Atlanta. It is a seemingly idyllic existence Helen and Charles lead. Despite the external trappings of success and matrimonial bliss, all is not well with the McCarters as evidenced by Charles unceremonious dumping of Helen on the eve of their 18th wedding anniversary.

Devastated, Helen is left with a U-haul truck full of boxes and little else. What is shocking here is that Helen is seemingly blindsided by her husband's actions. It's illustrated within the first five minutes of the film that Charles has no respect for her and treats her as little more than a trophy. Yet somehow, Helen is surprised when Charles unloads her. Helen bemoans the fact that Charles 'made' her put her mother in a home, Charles 'alienated' her from her friends/family, and even beat her.

This is not to say that one can't sympathize with Helen. The way Charles treats her is abhorrent and reprehensible. Yet, it seems Helen takes no responsibility for her actions (or inactions). Why would Helen stay with someone so awful for 18 years? She characterizes herself as literally helpless after being dumped by Charles. It's challenging to root for someone who seems to have made a series of bad decisions and has exhibited willful ignorance for eighteen years.

Anyway, Helen is fortunate enough to have grandma figure Madea (aptly played by screenwriter Tyler Perry) to fall back on. Truly, her scenes are the only saving grace in this film. She brings a much-needed dose of comedy to a film that is frightfully flat and predictable. Madea is strong, willful, and a bit unhinged. Which begs the question, 'If Madea was a maternal figure in Helen's life, how is it that Helen ended up so weak and helpless?'

To Helen's credit she gets a job as a waitress, begins to pick up the pieces of her life and, in short order, becomes romantically entangled with rough around the edges Orlando (Shemar Moore). Of course, Orlando possesses all of the qualities Charles lacked and this forced romance provides Helen with an opportunity to do things differently. The problem is the romance doesn't hold water. Both Orlando and Helen are attractive, but there's no depth or substance to these characters; their coupling feels painfully obligatory.

Above and beyond the poor development of virtually all of the characters in the film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman posits a bafflingly tidy resolution. Without getting into details, every loose end is awkwardly tied and all parties get their just desserts. Tyler Perry and first time director Darren Grant would have been better served to ditch the romance and focus exclusively on the comedy, as it's the only part of Diary of a Mad Black Woman that works.

Rating: 1 star out of 5