Kimberly Elise, or her agent, is really smart. She has starred in two Denzel Washington movies, the first being the God-awful (but financially successful) "John Q," the second being the star-studded "Manchurian Candidate." More impressive is her ability to cater to urban audiences in "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Woman Thou Art Loosed," two films that revolve around pissed-off black women (obviously, since she is African-American) who get back at men who were bad to her and who eventually find some kind of spiritual meaning in it all.
I haven't seen "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and have no plans to, considering it looked terrible and is receiving God-awful reviews, but that very same movie is currently on its way to becoming the sleeper hit of the year. The film is catering heavily to African-American populations, and much the same can be said about "Woman Thou Art Loosed."
To get it on the table, I'm a middle-class white guy (and an atheist) and definitely not in the demographic that this movie caters to. "Woman Thou Art Loosed" is a decent movie, but my ability to review it is limited by the fact that I really have no way to relate to what this movie is about. The end result is that I realize this is an okay movie, but at the same time never was able to establish an emotional involvement with the characters.
"Woman Thou Art Loosed" is about a woman who has just gotten out of jail and is determined to set her life right. She's made friends with a nice man named Todd (played by Michael Boatman, best known for "Spin City") and seems to be getting her life back on track by attending some religious events, even if those events don't cater to her interests. However, despite all the good she is capable of, she is still troubled by the sins inflicted on her during her childhood, namely the sexual abuse by her mother's boyfriend.
The movie is short and to the point, depicting the hypocrisies of people and the lengths some are willing to go to maintain a normal life, even if it means turning your back on horrible secrets. Elise turns in a good performance as a mad black woman who is understandably alone in the world, despite being surrounded by several people willing to help her. Loretta Devine and Clifton Powell also deliver good performances.
Now, "Woman Thou Art Loosed" can be looked at from two perspectives. As a drama, it's only okay. There's nothing new here, the production values are nothing special and in the end, it is another forgettable film. It isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. The religious themes are thankfully pretty subdued, but the movie clearly has a message and doesn't waver from that message for the sake of telling a better story.
However, as a black film it's pretty good. I don't like splitting movies by race, but let's be honest here. Movie studios obviously think that black people are willing to watch any garbage that stars a predominantly black cast and for years have been shelling out such garbage. This is not to say that black people have bad taste; they simply have more limited options when it comes to watching movies that more closely relate to them. As with most minorities, black people are still vastly underserved when it comes to quality movies. So, it's refreshing to see a movie that is obviously oriented toward African-Americans that actually takes itself seriously. Again, the movie isn't great, but it's okay.
"Woman Thou Art Loosed" clearly is a targeted movie and if you're within the target audience (a.k.a. Christian African-Americans) you'll probably thoroughly enjoy this film. If you're not, then it will cause you no harm to watch it, though you might want to spend your money on something with more impact.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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