Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 8th, 2010
“September 19th. Dear Diary, as I sit here thinking about picking up the pieces of what used to be my life, I realized something. Every room in this house holds a painful memory for me. Even though he’s suffering, something somewhere in me wants him to suffer more. A few months and a divorce can take you through just as many emotions as 18 years in a marriage. And I’m starting to feel all of them at once. But the one that is clear is rage. Signed, a Mad Black Woman.”
Lately I’ve had an opportunity to watch a ton of Madea on Blu-ray. Lionsgate is bringing out all of the Tyler Perry collection on high-definition Blu-ray of late. It makes sense that this wave of releases would also include Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. This is where Madea’s cinematic life began. Watching these films has been a bit of a blessing and a curse. The blessing part comes from some of the pure hilarity that can be Madea. The curse comes in the form of Perry’s Jekyll and Hyde style of presenting these absolutely classic comedy moments with tales of faith and redemption. Again, both styles are admirable and good on their own. I just have trouble with the mix. However, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman is better than most of his efforts in that department. Because Madea relates more integrally with the other story, it doesn’t come across near as awkward as some of the others. This was probably the best of this recent wave of Tyler Perry movies. And so it seems I saved the best for last.
Helen (Elise) and Charles (Harris) are about to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary. Most folks go out to a nice dinner. Some take an exotic vacation. Others spend a quiet romantic evening at home. But Charles brings home another woman and tells his wife that it’s time for her to go away. He’s already packed her stuff and moved his new girl’s stuff into the mansion they’ve shared for 18 years. There’s a U-Haul in the driveway with a driver, Orlando (Moore) who has been paid to take her anywhere she wants to go. They keyword, of course, is go. Charles has forced her to alienate her family and put her mother in a nursing home. So the only place she can think of is her grandmother’s. You guessed it… Madea (Perry). Of course, when Madea gets involved, it isn’t too long before there’s police and court appearances. Madea finds herself under house arrest. Meanwhile Helen is falling for truck driver Orlando.
Much of the film’s narrative style comes from Helen’s diary entries, hence the title. Yeah, I was fooled as well. I was certain that Madea was going to be our mad black woman. Helen begins as a very sympathetic character. The treatment she receives from her husband is quite horrifying. But the film flips the tables at some point and Helen gains a great deal of control over Charles. Here’s where the film pretty much goes wrong. Helen becomes worse than Charles was and physically sadistic in his vulnerable condition. Whatever sympathy Perry managed to create for the character completely disappears. We might expect this kind of behavior from Madea. And we’d likely laugh our behinds off if she had been the culprit. But it’s a serious misfire from Perry to have her do some of the cruel things she does here. It’s the only real misstep in what is otherwise a solid film. There’s plenty of Madea and Uncle Joe here, so you’re bound to get a sweet enough fix of the characters.
The supporting cast is strong. Perry always manages to snag some pretty heavy hitters for his films. I’m not necessarily talking huge names. I’m talking big enough names but some solid acting chops to go along with the name. I can’t deny that he has a heck of a knack for putting the right actor into the right role. It makes the believability factor of his films quite high. Criminal Minds’ Shemar Moore is underused as Orlando, Helen’s new love interest. He’s very laid-back and natural here. The Practice’s own Eugene, Steve Harris, is quite believable as Charles. He pulls off the sadistic and unfeeling husband in the first part of the film just as well as his vulnerable nature later on. Give the guy credit for displaying a far greater range than he had been asked to on television. Kimberly Elise, Dr. Swender from Grey’s Anatomy, is another natural fit. Like Harris, she goes through quite a few changes in the film. She’s a favorite of Denzel Washington, and in this film you can certainly see why. Cicely Tyson is a regular in Perry’s films, and this one is where that tradition began. Finally, Tamara Taylor from Bones does a fine job as the drug-addicted wife to Perry’s third character, family lawyer Brian.
It’s a heartwarming and inspirational story with plenty of good music to carry the weight. I did get the feeling it was a bit overlong, but Madea helps us to pass the time when the pace slows down a bit too much. The pace could well be the result of director Darren Grant, who had done only music videos and other short subjects before this film. He hasn’t really done anything much since the film, either. Tyler Perry would end up sitting in the director’s chair himself for most of the movies that followed. It’s worth at least a rent.
Diary Of An Angry Black Woman is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 22 mbps. The film looks very natural. This is kind of the style for Perry films. He doesn’t like to distract his audience with a lot of flash on the screen. He lets the story and performances hold your attention, or not. The image presentation contains an average level of detail. Black levels are a little better than average, but there isn’t much happening in the shadows here. The film is brightly lit, for the most part. Again, the keyword here is natural.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 The DTS-HD Master audio is quite strong. The music is where it shines. Every vocal performance is given a dynamic presentation to do justice to the heartfelt performances on the screen. The lip matching is off considerably at times, but it won’t matter when all you’ll want to do is sit back and listen. Dialog is fine as well, but the music is where this uncompressed audio really delivers.
All of the features are in Standard Definition.
The ATL: (9:49) This feature touts Atlanta as the Hollywood of the South.
The Real Mad Black Women: (16:44) Eleven recently split black women and one white girl watch and discuss certain scenes from the movie, giving us a dose of the real.
Deleted Scenes: (20:27) There are 10 with a play all option.
Making Of…: (20:36) A ton of clips bogs down this feature. By now you’ve seen the same film clips at least 7 times plus the movie itself. Cast and crew talk about making the movie. Perry joins in character as both Madea and Uncle Joe.
Who Is Tyler Perry (12:31) and Tyler Perry Spotlight (11:41) These are redundant profiles on Perry. There’s a huge love-fest going on here.
Reflections On Diary: (2:53) Perry talks about the themes.
You Can Do It, It’s Electric: (2:52) Dance instructional.
Much of the movie was filmed in Tyler Perry’s own house. I guess those plays were pulling in some serious coin before the movies even started. The mansion is impressive. After years of traveling plays this is where the movie career for Perry and his characters begins. If you don’t already know who Madea is by now, “I don’t know how to explain it to you”.