There's a problem that plagues many couples at the multiplex: Mrs. America wants to see an earthy romance about a strong woman's self-actualization, like How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Mr. America is in the mood for a broad comedy featuring a young man in drag playing an old black grandmother in a fat-suit, like Big Momma's House. In the past, they'd have faced a painful compromise. But Renaissance man Tyler Perrythe writer, producer, composer, and triple-threat actor behind Diary Of A Mad Black Womanapparently sees no reason why they can't both get what they want. Never mind the amusement-park nausea induced by two story tones clashing like the colors on a Hawaiian shirt: In Perry's world, there's no reason an beaten-down housewife picking up the pieces of her broken marriage shouldn't share a space with a gun-toting, foul-tongued, ball-scratching granny in a muumuu.
Based on one of Perry's stage plays, which enjoy a strong grassroots following, Diary crudely brings these incongruous elements together under the banner of black Christian entertainment. The wife of wealthy, two-timing Atlanta businessman Steve Harris, Kimberly Elise literally gets kicked to the curb on her 18th wedding anniversary after finding out about Harris' latest side-dish. Left shattered with no money and no job experience, Elise retreats to the ghetto home of her ill-mannered grandma (Perry), where she tries to summon the strength to put her life back in order. After a few months, her bitterness curbs at the steel-driving hands of Shemer Moore, an earnest working-class dreamboat who makes all other men seem like drooling heathens. For good measure, there's also a pair of seemingly unnecessary subplotsone dealing with the relationship between Elise's brother-in-law (also Perry) and his crackhead wife, and the other involving Harris defending a belligerent drug dealer in court.
As a writer and performer, Perry only knows one speed, which involves stomping on the thin pedal to the right. Diary's dramatic and comedic elements are pushed to such extremes that their juxtaposition leads to severe disorientation. On one end, Elise's marital crises aren't garden-varietythey're rife with sadomasochism, humiliation, and physical abuse, all leading to a third-act revenge scenario worthy of Boxing Helena. On the other, Perry's grating drag shtick is spiked with crazy aggression: When granny isn't whipping out her pistol, she's taking a chainsaw to Harris' furniture. The whole three-ring circus winds up in a church for a redemptive finale, but by then, Diary has committed too many sins for even the most generous soul to offer salvation.