I played no creative part in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, but I am somewhat responsible for its existence. This sort of thing happens a lot in Hollywood; the true origins of a good idea are never as secure as a creator would have you believe. For instance, I once remarked to Bob Zemeckis about how surprisingly hot his mother was. Two years later, the world had Back to the Future. I played no creative part in Back to the Future, but I am somewhat responsible for its existence.
The story with Diary of a Mad Black Woman is complicated. Like many of us, I had a racist Grandpa. His name was Uncle Buck. Sadly, he wasn’t one of those funny racist guys, like in American History X, but rather one of those scary racist guys, like in American History: No Need For An X To Look Tuff.
Grandpa Uncle Buck thought all artists were faggots (except Hank Williams, James Garner, and Vanilla Ice), so I was very surprised to find that he had secretly written a 200 page-long screenplay where he does nothing but praise God and make fun of black people. Calling it racist does not quite cover it. This was the most stereotypical, reductive personification of African Americans I’d ever come across. But thanks to the fifth-grade writing level, it was also the funniest. Pretty soon I was showing it to everyone I knew.
One of the people I knew at the time was R. Kelly, and in true R. Kelly fashion, the joke of the script oozed through the toothless wheels of his brain and become something serious. He solemnly vowed that not only would he make the movie, but he would also play all the roles himself. I love R. Kelly, but I’m pretty sure that, while God gave him genius, his mother gave him fetal alcohol syndrome. (Did you know that if you try to shoot R. Kelly the gun will explode in your hand?)
Without changing a thing, R, Kelly managed to turn my Grandpa Uncle Joe’s racist screenplay into a film which celebrates Southern Christian African American culture while excluding all other possible demographics. Every Southern Christian African American in America saw this film four times at twice the cost of a normal movie ticket, while every European American in America only heard of it for the first time two weeks ago.
I watched the movie, but I didn’t understand it. Let’s begin with the most basic elements:
*There is a 30-something couple, who have been married for eighteen years, which means they hooked up sometime around puberty. He is strong but bad. She is weak but good.
*He’s not just cheating, but having a whole family behind her back. He and his young white mistress have put two kids through high school already.
*After getting an award called “Lawyer of the Year” he finally decides to dump his wife. He drags her out by the weave, and kicks her repeatedly in the crotch. R. Kelly utilizes the “Scream & Snot” acting method for these scenes.
This is five minutes into the movie, and I’m already lost. Is the lack of logic on purpose? It is supposed to be so melodramatic and over the top? I try to get my bearings on the film, when suddenly Medea shows up and makes the college parts of my brain turn to sulfurous smokepuffs.
Medea takes the film into some kind of stratosphere of tonal confusion. The deadly serious opening scenes are now completely undermined by R. Kelly dressed up and acting like he’s in Ernest Hits the Hood. Once you adjust to the new genre it’s actually pretty funny (if you like your laughs filtered through confused guilt). Too bad it doesn’t last.
The lawyer husband guy starts defending a mobster and it becomes THAT kind of movie. The wife starts dating R. Kelly doing a Denzel Washington impression and it becomes THAT kind of movie. R. Kelly dressed as himself plays a completely superfluous character who has two kids with a woman who’s addicted to heroin, so it occasionally becomes THAT kind of movie. The only kind of movie it doesn’t try to be is a movie where a mad black woman writes a diary.
Towards the end of the film, I fell asleep and had a dream that the lawyer guy is shot by the mobster guy and gets paralyzed and his estranged wife comes back to help him but tortures him instead and God tells her to knock it off and the two fall back in love but when he learns to walk again she falls out of love with him and decides to get back with Denzel Washington who she just abandoned for no reason right after the two exchanged vows of love and he forgives her for that and the husband forgives her for divorcing him but God doesn’t forgive the divorce so he sends her to hell and Medea has to go in after her and threaten God by pulling a cap gun out her purse and looking pissed which makes God nervous so he sends them both back to Earth. Then I woke up and the film was over.
I just don’t have a Rosetta Stone for this film. But since it made tons of money, I tried to emulate it by hiring Forrest Gump, the closest thing white people have to an R. Kelly, to make a Christian movie exclusively about stereotypical white people. The resulting film, Fireproof, was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, but it made me a fortune.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey