Tyler Perry: Movies with Heart
By Jon Minners
"There's nothing broken that can't be fixed with love"
Apparently, my White Card was revoked last week. Yes, I told everyone I was going out with my buddies Katrina and Annia to see Madeas Family Reunion and everyone in the room laughed at me. Every one of them was white, obviously, and as a white man, I guess I was not allowed to watch that movie, but after Katrina lent me a copy of Tyler Perryís first movie, A Diary of a Mad Black Woman, I was hooked into the series and I actually could not wait to see the latest film. Who cares what other people think. Pure ignorance.
Tyler Perry does not make formulaic movies. He makes real cultural masterpieces that truly examine almost every element of black culture. At the heart of that culture is religion and family. And originally created as a series of plays, all the titles in the Tyler Perry collection examine every aspect of this culture; the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. This is a real slice of American life and whether you like it or not, millions of Americans canít be wrong. Perry didnít follow the Steven Spielbergs, the Martin Scorseses or the Spike Lees for that matter; he created a new formula for your audience. Real recognizes real and everyone who leaves a Tyler Perry movie will experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions they will never forget and look forward to riding again and again.
A Diary of a Mad Black Woman focuses on Helen McCarter, played by Kimberly Elise, who was a guest on the acclaimed series Girlfriends and starred in the Christian cult classic film Woman Thou Art Loosed. Helen has everything a woman wants, including a nice house and rich husband, but nothing is really what it seems beneath the surface. The relationship is crumbling, but on what is supposed to be the greatest day of their lives, Helen finds a wardrobe of new clothing in her beautiful home, a gesture she thinks her husband, played by Steve Harris, is using to reignite their love on their anniversary. What she finds out is that the clothes donít exactly fit for a reason. Her husband bought them for his mistress, who he has having move into the house. He evicts his wife and in one of the most graphic and heart wrenching scenes I have ever seen in a film, literally drags her by her hair and whatever else he can grab, out of the house and into the streets. The shocking visual just angers a viewer who will not believe what is transpiring.
But not all is bad. Orlando, the mover her husband hired to get rid of her things is played by Shemar Moore and there is a connection between he and Helen, a connection that is further explored when Helen tries to get on with her life, thanks to God, a diary and help from her grandmother Madea, played by Tyler Perry in drag, and her cousin Brian, also played by Perry.
And yet, just when life seems to be getting in order God really challenges you. Her husband is almost killed by a vengeful client and rather than have her happiness with Orlando, she opts to go back to the man who abused her and care for him, not before abusing him a little in return. When a womanís fed up is right. The scenes of revenge are as graphic as those that shocked the viewer in the beginning. Paralyzed and helpless, Helen dumps her husband in the tub and just leaves him there before finally coming back and really nursing him to health. What was disturbing in the beginning was actually something worth cheering later on. Funny how our perceptions change. All works out in the end and the message presented to the viewer is that in order to truly be happy, you cannot hold on to the things that make you angry. You must forgive, let go and move on. Only when you can forgive, can you expect to be forgiven; can you expect to be truly happy. That message stayed with me during my own recent ordeal. Nowhere near as bad, my heart was still hurt and my friend cannot believe I can forgive someone for something so heinous, but I need to, so that I can be happy and live a happy life.
Madeaís Family Reunion is the next in what will be a series of films thanks to the large success of A Diary of a Mad Black Woman. This movie focuses more on Madea than the previous film. We know that Madea does not pull any punches. She speaks the truth. She is not politically correct. She is violent. She can be mean. Yet, no matter how strange she seems at times, Madea has a heart of gold. She is surprisingly worldly. The jokes and the harsh words hide an important message sometimes if her family members choose to listen carefully. This film examines that side more.
Madea may have finally taken on more than she can chew. Another run-in with the court due to her taking off her Martha Stewart-like house arrest bracelet, ends up leading to Madea being ordered to be in charge of Nikki, a rebellious runaway. At the same time, her nieces Lisa and Vanessa are suffering relationship trouble, and through it all, she has to organize her family reunion. As the reunion approaches, secrets are revealed and tensions rise. Madea must use every tactic in her arsenal to not only keep the peace, but keep her family together.
This movie is hardcore. There are some elements I couldnít believe and just like in the previous film, there is just a scene that is so jarring, it just leaves you shaking your head. Lisa, played by Rochelle Aytes, is about to marry Carlos, played by Blair Underwood, who played a much nicer antagonist in Something New. He walks in on an impromptu bachelorette party and he doesnít seem to mind, but when she says goodbye to her friends, suddenly, a smack comes out of nowhere, almost like a scene out of a horror movie. You jump. Oh my GodÖthatís what this movie is about. Abused, Lisa obeys her mother, played so villainously by Lynn Whitfield, who was so much nicer in Redemption. You soon discover some horrible family secrets involving her half sister Vanessa, played so perfectly by Lisa Arrindell Anderson. Anderson is a wonderful actress. Her story is almost very similar to that of Helenís. She finds true love in the form of Frank, played by Boris Kodjoe, of The Gospel, but she cannot enjoy true love thanks in part to the jaw dropping secret kept by her mother. Only when she can learn to forgive can she enjoy her life. And only when Lisa can find her own true worth can she fight back in a shocking, yet empowering action, and move on with her own life.
The ending was very like one scene from an A Different World episode; unrealistic, but emotionally uplifting. Several messages made by elders in the family to the youth who seemed to have lost their way are also very important for todayís youth to hear. And hilarious segments involving Madea helped deflect some of the hardcore drama that was unfolding on the screen. The best scene played out as Janet Jacksonís character from Good Times was being beaten by her mother on television. Madea whipped out the belt to discipline her young charge Nikki and you immediately saw the difference between discipline and abuse. That was a great scene if people caught what was being said.
And just like the previous movie, Perry paces the film in a way where the minute your eyes become teary from the emotional scenes of violence, hate, and extremely adult related material, Madea brings laughter in your life, as the previous lessons sink in. They donít beat you over the head with the melodrama. It makes the messages delivered more acceptable to handle. The Tyler Perry series always leaves you feeling mentally fulfilled and with several more plays about to receive similar treatments; prepare to be spiritually uplifted. Itís a gift that keeps on giving.