After being thrown out of their mansion by her high-powered, adulterous husband Charles (Steve Harris), Helen (Kimberly Elise) licks her wounds at the house of her irascible, gun-toting grandmother, Madea (Tyler Perry), and attempts to start a new life for herself. She has first to find herself a job, get over that no-account Charles, and try to open herself up to the potential of new romance with Orlando (Shemar Moore).

Diary of a Mad Black Woman was written by Perry (who also produced, co-stars and did the music), described in the press package as "America's most successful young playwright, grossing over $75 million in box office with seven productions which play to predominantly black audiences across the country." The character of Madea made her first appearance in his play I Can Do Bad All by Myself, and subsequently reappeared in numerous of Perry's other works, including Madea's Family Reunion and Madea's Class Reunion. You might be getting the idea by this time. Perry's writing is dramaturgy of the most primitive kind, with melodramatic situations, tons of woozy sentiment, and humor which might be described as "lowbrow," were that not probably too elevated a term for it.

This type of thing will definitely find its fans, but it's particularly sad to see the great Cicely Tyson, whose Sounder and Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman seemed precursors of a new golden age for black actors, reduced to playing Helen's religious mother, stuck in a senior citizens' home, who exhorts her daughter to put her faith in the Lord, etc. To her credit, however, Tyson's appearance is, blessedly, a tiny oasis of quiet dignity in these frenzied, anything-for-a-reaction circumstances.

Perry gives himself not only the screen-hogging role of Madea (screaming, "No wire hangers" no less, at one point), but also two other parts in the movie, including a particularly unfunny old, marijuana-toking codger. He's a complete grotesque and his overpowering, obviously masculine presence as Madea makes it completely impossible to take any part of this film seriously.

Not that Elise doesn't try to make her Helen a suffering Everywoman (like some deserted character out of Waiting to Exhale). You'd like to feel sympathy for her, but when Darren Grant's tactless direction has her being dragged by the hair, kicking and screaming, out of her house (which resembles Buckingham Palace) by her too easily villainous husband, it just smacks of pure feminine exploitation. The black male-bashing becomes too much, and hints of a certain patronization on the part of its creators. The cheap exposition has Moore handily placed as the man instructed to move her stuff out, but for all his handsomeness and laid-back charm, there is little he can do to redeem this garish garbage.