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2 items from 2005

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

11 March 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"Diary of a Mad Black Woman" is a strange hybrid, part romance-novel melodrama and part broad sketch comedy. Even more strange is that, in an awkward split-personality way, it works some of the time. Cutting through the schmaltz of the wronged-woman scenario are glorious third-act gospel contributions and the comic shenanigans of scripter-producer-actor-composer Tyler Perry. Despite its over-the-top sensibility and uneven performances, "Diary" has sleeper potential along the lines of last year's "Woman, Thou Art Loosed", which also toplined the dexterous and gifted Kimberly Elise.

Perry's script, based on his grassroots-hit play, paints emotions and character types with broad strokes. The soap-opera setup is ludicrous, but debuting feature helmer Darren Grant finds a certain groove for the material as inspirational, blessedly non-preachy entertainment. Even when grappling with matters as weighty as anger, forgiveness and faith, one of the film's endearing qualities is its refusal to take itself too seriously -- which would be hard to do with Perry in drag as the main character's grandmother.

Helen (Elise), the starry-eyed wife of respected attorney Charles (Steve Harris), endures his outrageous cruelty with such equanimity that she seems to have been beamed in from 1952, or maybe another planet. Her measured diary entries, heard in voice-over, cut the cad way too much slack. Helen is sympathetic only because Charles is such a creep; she's an empty shell whose only interest is being a perfect wife. Helen's happily-ever-after fantasy shatters when, on their 18th anniversary, he physically tosses her out of their Versailles-size Atlanta estate, his evil girlfriend (Lisa Marcos) at his side.

As Helen travels the bumpy road to self-knowledge, Grandma Madea is a crucial emotional support. The strongest of three characters Perry plays in the film, Madea's a straight-talking, pistol-packing voice of righteously funny anger. Perry's other roles are crotchety, pot-smoking Uncle Joe (less of a hoot than he's meant to be) and Joe Son's Brian, a good-guy lawyer who's given up on trying to help his estranged junkie wife (Tamara Taylor).

Madea snaps Helen out of her pining and into working-class reality, with time out for sweet revenge. Offering a more forgiving brand of wisdom are Helen's mother (Cicely Tyson) and new love interest, Orlando (Shemar Moore), a Harlequin-cover hunk with a heart of gold. Real-life concerns aside, the film definitely believes in fairy tales. But the story takes a few extreme turns on the way to romantic bliss. Just when Helen seems too saintlike to be true, her pent-up fury toward her ex emerges in a huge way. Elise is up to the melodrama, from refined and repressed to fierce and vengeful.

For all its false steps, "Diary" is refreshing in the way it explores the burden of anger and matters of faith without being cloying or judgmental. Technical contributions are OK within the budget's constraints. And a spirit-shaking, roof-raising gospel performance -- courtesy of Taylor, Terrell Carter and other extraordinary singers -- could have moviegoers on their feet.


Lions Gate Films

A Tyler Perry Co. production in association with BET Films


Director: Darren Grant

Writer: Tyler Perry

Producers: Reuben Cannon, Tyler Perry

Executive producers: Michael Paseornek, John Dellaverson, Robert L. Johnson

Director of photography: David Claessen

Production designer: Ina Mayhew

Music: Elvin Ross, Tyler Perry

Co-producer: Mike Upton

Costume designer: Keith Lewis

Editor: Terilyn A. Shropshire


Helen: Kimberly Elise

Charles: Steve Harris

Madea/Joe/Brian: Tyler Perry

Myrtle: Cicely Tyson

Orlando: Shemar Moore

Debrah: Tamara Taylor

Brenda: Lisa Marcos

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 117 mins »

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Patinkin enrolls in 'Quantico' at CBS

18 February 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Emmy winner Mandy Patinkin leads the cast of the CBS drama pilot Quantico, which also includes Shemar Moore and Lola Glaudini. Meanwhile, Ever Carradine has been cast in another ABC drama pilot, Commander in Chief. In other pilot casting news, Beverly Hills, 90210 alum Daniel Cosgrove and Constance Zimmer (NBC's Good Morning Miami) have joined the ABC drama In Justice, Less Than Perfect co-star Zachary Levi has been tapped to star in the CBS comedy Three, and D.B. Woodside and Elize Du Toit have joined Ivan Sergei in UPN's drama pilot Triangle. Quantico, from Touchstone TV, is a suspense thriller that centers on the workings of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. Patinkin will play the leader of the team, with Moore, Glaudini and Matthew Gubler playing members of the squad. »

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