MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION
The movie takes place in Georgia. It opens with a very pretty woman, Lisa, awaking in the morning to a trail of rose petals. She follows them through the penthouse and they lead her into the bathroom. In the bathroom, are a luxurious bath and a female quartet playing music. Her fiancé, Carlos, is next to the bath in a tie and suit. The whole scene is very lavish. He slips her out of the gown and tells her the bath should help with her soreness and that he loves her and will see her after he gets back from work. Lisa does not look very happy and he leaves.
Later that day, Lisa is in the kitchen on the phone, when the doorbell rings and the maid answers it. Two of her friends (one is her friend, the other is Lisa’s sister, Vanessa) walk in and take her out for a pampering treat. Lisa says that she needs her purse, but they say “don’t worry, we have you covered” and Lisa tells them that she needs her cell phone, but they kind of push her out of the kitchen so they can get going.
While they are at the spa getting their nails done, Lisa tells them that they should have let her bring her purse, because they cannot afford all of this. One of her friends tells Lisa to “Relax, you deserve it. Besides, you are getting married in less than six months!” Vanessa then says, “Hey, I deserve it, after running around with my two kids all week.”
The other friend then says, “That is the truth…black women may not do what they want to do, but they always do what they have to do.” A nice looking man walks over and recognizes Vanessa and says, “Hi, my name is Frankie. You don’t remember me? You ride my bus everyday…the number nine.” Vanessa acknowledges him. Frankie offers her his phone number and asks her to go out with him sometime. The other friend tells him that he is brave for asking Vanessa out in front of her friends, because “you do know that we are going to talk about you, don’t you?” Lisa leans over and takes the phone number from Frankie. She says, “Don’t worry she’ll be calling you.” Vanessa looks on in shock.
Soon after the ladies get back to Lisa and Carlos’s place, there is a knock at the door, Vanessa and the other friend giggle and in walks a male stripper dressed as a cop and he begins his routine. Lisa begins freaking out and tries to get her friends to stop and the guy to leave. The stripper ignores her and flips her over his shoulder. Guess what? Carlos gets home early and happens to walk in right at that moment! So, the music stops, awkward introductions are made (he and Vanessa have never met) and Carlos appears to be very charming and okay with it. He shakes the male stripper’s hand and tells him to “carry on” and then goes in to the next room. The friends promptly leave, with the stripper; after all they paid for a full dance. Vanessa tells Lisa that she loves her and that they need to get together again soon.
As soon as the door closes, Carlos comes up behind Lisa and slaps her…knocking her to the floor. You can see his fingerprints on her face. “You like making me angry, don’t you? I’ve been calling you all day.” He says. “Things could be so much easier if you would just do what I tell you. Go fix your hair.” Lisa is on the floor crying; we see the 5 carat engagement ring on her finger.
Now this is where the story diverges into about 3 major subplots…the film is a good mix of humor (mostly cultural) and drama (universal issues). I should get most of the story in order.
Lisa tells her ritzy and perfectly groomed mother, Victoria, that Carlos hits her; the mother looks surprised and tells Lisa “she should stop doing whatever it is that she’s doing to make him upset.” When Lisa is about to object (she looks hurt), her mother says, “of course you’re going to marry him. Just be a good wife and do what the man says and you won’t have any problems.” Then Victoria proceeds to order a Cobb salad.
Later, Victoria and Lisa are at the bridal shop were Vanessa works, planning a Parisian themed fiasco, Victoria picks out the style and some of the other factors for Lisa’s wedding. Lisa asks her mother if she is planning on going to the family reunion in a few months, after all she has not seen her grandchildren (Vanessa’s 2 kids) in a while. Victoria calls them brats and criticizes Vanessa’s way of lifeshe’s poor and artistic, “just like your no-good father, who walked out on me.” Vanessa gets angry and comes to their defenses and calls Lisa’s father an evil…Victoria stops her and claims that “we afforded you plenty of opportunities which you squandered and I’m not going to let you ruin your sister’s chances.” Vanessa tells her mother to rot in hell; Victoria says she vacations there.
When Vanessa gets on the bus that evening, we see Frankie and he asks why she did not call him. We also find out that Frankie is an artist with a son and Vanessa is a poet. Frankie offers to make the get together a family affair and wants to meet her and her kids at a park Saturday morning. She says she’ll think about. Vanessa is also living at Madea’s house, until she can get another place of her own.
Madea is in court for removing her house arrest bracelet, because she was doing the work of the Lord and could not be tied down. Her lawyer and nephew, Brian, verifies that Madea does watch his children when he is at work. The judge tells Madea that since she is so keen on caring for those who are in need, she can begin caring for a foster girl or go to prison Madea says, “I’ll take prison for $200, Alex.” We get to watch the positive development of this girl, who at first gets constant butt whippins’ for her disrespect and disobedience, yet at the same time Madea stands up to the bus bully for her and helps the young girl get a tutor for her algebra homework. The young girl ends up getting a “B” in the class and begins to have hope of one day going to college. Madea says that the girl can stay as long as she likes.
Frankie and Vanessa hit it off! She and her kids end up meeting Frankie and his son at the park. Over time we see that they are very much alike and that he does respect and care for her and that he is “very old fashioned and likes to be the chaser.” On their first date, he takes her to a poetry bar. Vanessa says that after her second child was born and after the relationship with the father went sour, she became a Christian and took a vow to remain celibate until she married. She said that it was easier to just not date; after all, “all men come for something.” “Some men come to restore,” Frankie tells her. One day, she, Frankie and her kids were hanging out at his place and she falls asleep. When she wakes up the kids and Frankie are gone and she freaks out! They all walk in before she can make a phone call. She rushes to her kids; checks them out and begins to yell at Frankie and to her kids to hurry up and get their shoes on. Frankie is able to reassure her that he just wanted to let her get some sleep, so he took the kids out for ice cream…that he would never do anything to hurt her children or her…that he loves her. Things go much more smoothly after that.
Back to Lisa….Carlos is still abusive. He and Lisa are at dinner with some of his friends and Lisa yawns, discreetly. Carlos is angry at Lisa and pinches her thigh, discreetly and asks her to dance. On the dance floor, Carlos threatens Lisa and she tells him to hit her now so everyone can see what he’s really like. Lisa tries to pull away, but Carlos won’t let her go. He tells her that the dance isn’t over yet, and she better not think of moving out, because “I love you to death and I mean that.” We later see Lisa trying to escape from the penthouse one night, but Carlos catches her and we see him snap in and out of repentance and anger, but Lisa is not buying it and still tries to leave. He gets up and opens the balcony window and tells her that is the only way she can go. When she runs, he almost throws her over, but then she “decides” to stay and he makes Lisa declare her love for him and he smoothes away her tears (the guy clearly has deep issues).
Lisa does manage to escape one night and goes to her Madea’s house to visit her sister. The contrasts of t! he women’s relationships become very obvious. Vanessa is happy and growing; Lisa is very much afraid and controlled. Vanessa finds out that Lisa is being abused and flips out and calls Madea into the room. Lisa begs her not to say anything. So Vanessa poses it as “a friend of ours is having a problem; her man hits her” and asks Madea what to do. “Before or after the funeral,” Madea asks. But Madea is not stupid and looks right at Lisa and asks her if the friend actually wants out of the relationship. Lisa says yes. Madea tells them to sit down and says when your friend is ready to leave all she has to do is to fix her man breakfast. After he has gotten comfortable, let a big pot of grease boil on the stove. When it is hot and bubbly, dump the oil all over him. Then get a heavy skillet and give him a few good swats on the head.
Meanwhile, Carlos and Victoria are still jerks. It turns out that Victoria introduced Lisa to Carlos and that Carlos is a bank president or something that has been helping Victoria leak money from Lisa’s trust fund for years. The trust is now depleted and Victoria is trading Lisa for more money; more money will keep Victoria quiet and Carlos out of trouble. Carlos and Victoria have a verbal sparing; he orders Victoria to “get your daughter back in my house, tonight!” Victoria goes over to Madea’s house with a present for Lisa and tries to take her back to Carlos. Vanessa becomes unglued and the past comes out….
Victoria’s mother was a hardened prostitute who sold her for $10 and a fix. Victoria thought she escaped that life when she got married, but her musician husband left her and baby Vanessa. She had to work two jobs and do everything on her own, to make sure the two of them survived, so Victoria would not have to go back to the past she knew. Finally, this desperate, single mom was finally able to marry a very rich man; but she did not know that he was a pedophile. Victoria tried to do everything she could to please him and protect her girls. But, he was going to leave her and go back to his first wife, unless she gave him Vanessa. So Victoria looked the other way and let him molest and rape Vanessa, so she would not have to have a hard life anymore. That man was Lisa’s father and Victoria was able to guard Lisa. When that man died, however, he did not leave Victoria anything. He left his money to his first wife and a huge trust fund for Lisa. Carlos is rich and will be able to take care of Lisa and Victoria. Lisa and Vanessa are in tears. Victoria tells Lisa to “Stop that whining! Stop it! I took care of you and gave you the best of everything you little princess. Now it is your turn to take care of me!” She does not apologize for the choices she made.
Victoria disdains Vanessa, because so much of what has gone wrong in Vanessa’s life is a constant reminder of Victoria’s actions. Vanessa realizes that her mother has been controlling her as well as Lisa! She says, “I am afraid every time my children are out of my site! I have a man who loves me and I am afraid. But no more, I will not be your tragedy. I will love hard.” Victoria simply tells Lisa to get her things; she’ll be waiting in the car. Lisa and Vanessa exchange a teary hug. After three days, Lisa is back with Carlos and he greets her with roses and wine. Wedding plans are still a go.
The family reunion is a big hitliterally. Carlos and Victoria are snobs; Victoria blows off Frankie; Vanessa and Victoria exchange blows (Victoria had it coming). Nobody is buying that Lisa is happy. The older female members of the clan talk to Lisa and Vanessa about real and deep love. Some of the older members are not particularly pleased at some of the irresponsible behavior of the younger generation. They talk about how the ancestors of their family were slaves who worked hard and bought their own land and lived with dignity and respectfor themselves and for others.
Fast forward to the day of the wedding, Lisa is hiding out at Made! a’s house and Carlos comes looking for her, in his tuxedo. Madea, all dressed up for the wedding, tells Lisa that she needs to stop running. Carlos walks in and tells Madea that she looks very nice. Madea says, “Well, I only go to church for two reasons, weddings and funerals. I wonder what I’m going to today.” Before she leaves she tells Carlos that he looks hungry. “Lisa, fix Carlos some breakfast. There are some hot grits on the stove, hot grits, hot.” As soon as she leaves, Carlos backhands Lisa against the stove and starts yelling at her. Lisa grabs the grits and tosses them into Carlos’ face! She also grabs a cast iron skillet and gets in a good half dozen hits of her own. (When I saw this movie in the theater, the crowd was clapping and cheering at this point!) Then she takes off the 5 carat diamond ring and tosses it on the floor.
At the wedding site, the silly and overly stuck-up wedding coordinator almost faints when Lisa shows up with out her dress on. Lisa tells everyone that the wedding is off; that she has been beat everyday since she got engaged and she needs to make her own choices. The wedding coordinator is actually depressed that all of her hard work won’t be appreciated (the guests had not been allowed to be seated; they were waiting in the foyer, before the “Parisian experience” was opened to them). Frankie speaks up and says that maybe all won’t be wasted. He asks Vanessa to marry him; she says yes! So Lisa becomes the maid of honor and Vanessa becomes the bride. The ironic twist of fate is that the wicked mother and Carlos end up paying for the wedding of the ostracized daughter. Hooray!