I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • When Madea catches sixteen-year-old Jennifer and her two younger brothers looting her home, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

  • When Madea catches sixteen-year-old Jennifer and her two younger brothers looting her home, she decides to take matters into her own hands and delivers the young delinquents to the only relative they have: their aunt April. A heavy-drinking nightclub singer who lives off of Randy, her married boyfriend, April wants nothing to do with the kids. But her attitude begins to change when Sandino, a handsome Colombian immigrant looking for work, moves into April's basement room. Making amends for his own troubled past, Sandino challenges April to open her heart. And April soon realizes she must make the biggest choice of her life: between her old ways with Randy and the new possibilities of family, faith ... and even true love.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The movie opens with a house number at the Indigo Club (Rock Steady by Aretha Franklin). Nightclub singer April (Taraji P. Henson) takes the stage with the microphone in one hand and a glass of liquor in the other.

    Although talented, it is clear April is troubled and heavily dependent upon liquor; and we soon discover why: April's personal life is in shambles. She is seeing a married man, Randy (Brian White), who announces he has child support problems, his wife is pregnant again and he basically detests kids. In addition, its clear Randy is very controlling but April has tolerated his controlling and abusive nature because he pays the bills.

    As April sings, we break away to Madeas (Tyler Perry) home. Madea has been awakened upstairs in the middle of the night to sounds of her downstairs window breaking. Madea goes to her brother Joe's (Tyler Perry again) room and tells him someone is breaking into the house. In a comic exchange, Joe begins to tell Madea she can handle the intruders and then remembers his weed is downstairs where the intruders are so he decides to help Madea by following her downstairs.

    Madea goes downstairs and discovers the intruders are three children: Jennifer (Hope Wilson), Manny (Kwesi Boakye) and Byron (Frederick Siglar). Although upset, Madea invites the children in to eat and discovers there are several problems. First, Jennifer is very angry and distrustful of people (important later), Manny is very friendly but very ill due to Diabetes and Byron doesn't speak (important later). Madea soon discovers the children are very hungry and theyve been alone for about a week. Their grandmother left one day and never returned. The children declare their mother has died and their next of kin is their Aunt April. Madea decides to take the children to their aunt, partially motivated by the desire to make sure they're taken care of and partially motivated by the desire to recover the sum of $300 for her broken window.

    Madea arrives at April's home with the children in tow. April sees the kids and freaks out, declaring she is not their mom and it is not her problem. Also, the presence of the kids would upset Randy who pays the bills but doesn't like children. Madea insists April handle this family responsibly. April takes the kids in but makes it clear they are not welcome. We soon discover April has no maternal instinct. She doesn't know how to comfort the kids who are distraught because their grandmother (Mama Rose) is missing. Madea leaves and April gets into a shouting match with Jennifer. Jennifer decides to leave but her siblings stay behind.

    Meanwhile, a young man named Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) approaches Pastor Brian (Marvin Winans) who is helping the needy on the front steps of the church in April's neighborhood. Sandino tells the minister he remembers Pastor Brian did some missionary work in his native country and now he is in America and is looking for a better life. Sandino says he wants to find work. Just as Pastor Brian is about to address Sandino's concerns, Jennifer runs toward the church steps at top speed. Apparently, she has stolen something and the shopkeeper is chasing her. Sandino catches Jennifer and Pastor Brian apologizes to the shopkeeper. Then, he instructs Miss Wilma (Gladys Knight), one of the church members to show Sandino around the church so he can do some handiwork. Subsequently, Pastor Brian takes Jennifer to her Aunt April's home.

    Pastor Brian explains Jennifer was caught shoplifting and April flips out. It turns out Jennifer was shoplifting needles for Mannys insulin shots. Although upset, April agrees to keep the kids until she finds her mother and the kids can go back to live with her.

    The Pastor then asks April to help out Sandino. April has a beautiful home she inherited but she refuses to fix it up (the house is also a metaphor for April's life: beautiful on the outside, but falling apart on the inside). The Pastor suggests that April allow Sandino to fix the walls and floors of the home in exchange for room and board. April reluctantly agrees.

    Sandino eventually moves in and April has two comedic requests: He must shave his long hair and he must lock himself in the basement at night. Sandino looks alarmed when April says she'll lock him in the basement because she doesn't know what kind of man he is. April suggests since hes a handyman, he should be handy at using tools to break out of the basement in case of a fire! Sandino reluctantly agrees to April's requests. He shaves and April discovers Sandino is strikingly handsome!

    The next few days are a period of transition for April's household and Randy is not happy. Randy, who has been coming over on a regular basis to sleep with April, discovers the kids are in the house. He flips out and shows how cruel and abusive he can be. He suggestively offers candy to Jennifer who refuses to take it. However, Jennifer's chubby mute brother, Byron, reaches for it and Randy almost breaks his arm. Then, Randy begins to insult Sandino by declaring Sandino must be illegal. Again, April tolerates Randy's mean-spirited, abusive behavior.

    Sandino proves himself to be a better man than Randy. He takes the high road and refuses to fight although Randy tries his best to corner Sandino. Where Randy is mean-spirited and cruel, Sandino is selfless and nurturing. When April complains the kids are keeping her up by playing soccer in the house (she sings at night and must sleep during the day), Sandino offers to take the kids outside and plays soccer with them. In addition, he buys insulin for Manny. Jennifer is suspicious and wants to know why Sandino is so kind to them. Sandino tells Jennifer she is doing a great job and she should expect good things in life. Jennifer disagrees saying she hasn't seen much kindness in the world but eventually, Jennifer softens up around Sandino.

    Eventually, a tragedy surfaces. Pastor Brian and Miss Wilma come by to visit April from the church. They reveal April's mom died and her body is at the county morgue. Apparently, April's mom was on a bus and had a Brain Aneurysm. No one noticed because it appeared she was sleeping on the bus. Her body was at the county morgue and when no one claimed her, she was cremated. Pastor Brian and Miss Wilma present April with an urn carrying her mother's ashes.

    April begins to sob uncontrollably and Sandino agrees with Pastor Brian that he should look after April. April goes upstairs to Randy who is sleeping in her bed. She climbs into bed crying and begins to hug Randy while he's sleeping in hope that he will wake up and comfort her about her mother passing. Randy wakes, briefly, only to shrug April off of him and scorn her. It is obvious that Randy couldn't care less about her. April rolls off the bed and goes down to the sofa, alone.

    As April sits on the sofa Sandino joins her and she reveals some of the history with her mom, whom April has had a love-hate, dysfunctional relationship with. When Jennifer was age 9, Jennifer's mom (also, April's sister) pimped Jennifer out for drugs. April and her mom had a fight a year ago over April helping care for the chidren after her sisters death and they stopped speaking thereafter. April tells Sandino her mom spent so much time caring for others, that she didn't care for herself hence why it is tragic that her mom died all alone on a bus. It is part of the reason why Jennifer is so mistrustful of people. April's mom came to the rescue again and again for the children. At that point, Sandino puts his arm around April's back and begins to comfort her. April begins to let down her guard but it is clear she is uncomfortable with Sandino so close due to her trust and self-esteem issues. They only break away when the kids come in. April asks where they've been and after Jennifer tells her they've been out looking for Mama Rose, she and Sandino break the news. The kids quickly move from denial and disbelief to an almost numb outlook on relationships. Jennifer tells Sandino they're fine and "people die."

    Soon after, April's bartender girlfriend Tanya (Mary J. Blige) at the Indigo Club tells her, April is an alcoholic with self-esteem issues that is why she is tolerating a married, abusive man in her life. She tells her she is selfish and should be ashamed. Tanya goes on to sing the title number "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," during which we see how who we come to understand to be Mama Rose seemingly fell asleep on the bus one morning, and never woke up. Later, April tries to tell Jennifer that even though she can't keep her, she'll find her a good foster home. Jennifer retorts with ending up like her Aunt April, selfish and only worried about herself since caring for others doesn't work out so well. April hangs her head and walks away out of shame and frustration.

    The next morning Sandino finds April in the kitchen, awake "early" fr her. He tells her not to sleep all day. Then Sandino takes April out for a paddleboat ride at the local park and tells her that he cares about her after she asks why he held her the way he did after she learned the fate of her mother. He tells her she's funny but hides her true and beautiful self behind a wall. He asks her why she puts up with Randy and if she loves him. April deflects a direct answer by saying Randy helps out and pays the bills. Sandino tells her that isn't love. He describes that "love is having someone who will be there with you thick or thin, right or wrong." Whether she accepted what he said or not, she ends their paddleboat ride.

    Sandino has been fixing up a spare room in the house and shows the kids and April the room and for the first time, Byron speaks, "my bed." Jennifer is notably upset asking him why he'd get their hopes up when April won't keep them. He tells her that April could change her mind. Jennifer forces her brothers to reject the room and April chastises Sandino for not giving her a heads up. He asks her why that matters when she'd obviously made it clear that she doesn't care about those kids.

    Sandino tries to wake up April for church that Sunday, only to be threatened with deportation by Randy who opens the bedroom door before April could wake up. Sandino goes to church without her. April wakes and gets dressed to go to church and Randy tries to stop her. She goes anyway, despite his protests.

    April finds her seat next to Sandino and the children. She takes heed to the message, especially the part when Pastor Brian describes the right person walking into one's life and bringing in a new light because they're worth waiting for. April pretends not to notice Sandino looking at her during that part of the sermon. Pastor Brian then sings a song to follow up his preaching, which breaks through April's tough cookie image and we see her reminiscing on pivotal moments of her recent experiences, good and bad. She sings along and Sandino is visibly supportive of her. Miss Wilma and Pastor Brian turn the song into a duet and finish off the church service.

    The drama within April's household comes to a head one night when Jennifer awakens to the sounds of Manny gasping for breath. Jennifer gets up and goes to the kitchen to prepare Manny's insulin injection. Jennifer is startled by Randy who is sitting in a chair smoking a cigarette in the dark. Randy begins to make sexually suggestive comments to Jennifer who rejects him and attempts to get by Randy to give her brother his insulin. Randy grabs Jennifer and attempts to rape her. In walks Sandino with a baseball bat. Sandino strikes Randy across the back with the bat and Randy goes down screaming. April awakens and comes downstairs. April sees Sandino beating Randy to a pulp and starts screaming at Sandino to stop. Sandino tells April that Randy was trying to rape Jennifer and April becomes upset. Randy denies it. Sandino repeatedly says Randy tried to rape Jennifer. Randy declares Jennifer came onto him and asked for money and Jennifer screams he is a liar. Randy asks April who she believes and Aprils states that she believes Randy. April then tells Randy to go draw a bath and she'll clean him up. Sandino and Jennifer stay down stairs shocked.

    April slowly makes her way upstairs while Randy bathes. She walks into the bathroom and asking him what really happened. Randy says Jennifer attempted to seduce me for money, it was her fault and begins to look relieved when he thinks April is buying the story. Randy closes his eyes in the tub and April leaves the bathroom only to return with a radio. April plugs in the radio while Randy is ranting about how those awful kids need to leave. April asks him to tell her the truth. Randy continues to lie. April knows he is lying so she drops the radio closer to the bathtub water inches at a time. April starts to scream at Randy that she knows he is lying because, that is exactly what her mother's boyfriend said about her when he molested April. That is one of the reasons why she had such a strained, dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Sandino hears the ruckus and runs upstairs to beg April not to drop it, "he isn't worth it!" Just as April releases the radio into the bathtub Randy leaps from the bathtub, only moments to spare. April leaves the room to go to the bar. Sandino gives him three minutes to get dressed and get out of the house.

    Afterwards, April goes to the Indigo Club and drinks heavily. A few minutes later, Sandino enters the establishment after April. He tells her not to feel guilty, she didn't do anything wrong. April says she feels guilty because she should have seen the signs that Randy was a child molester, spending too much time looking at Jennifer's body when she passed by him. April drinks heavily because she has feelings of anger over being molested and her mom knew but told her, 'What happens in this house, stays in this house.' Where she failed April, Mama Rose had cared for her grandchildren. April says her mother should have recognized the signs in her and now she is suspicious of men who take too much of an interest in kids. April begins to turn on Sandino. She accuses Sandino of being a possible child molester because he has spent so much time looking after the kids. She asks Sandino why he cares about the kids so much. Sandino gets angry and leaves the club. April storms out behind him and yells out that he must be a child molester. Sandino turns around and begins to scream at April, telling her she is ruining her life. She is afraid of getting close to people so she pushes them away with her hardened tough-girl attitude. In addition, Sandino reveals he has been alone since he was little. Both of his parents died long ago and he was forced into the drug trade as a kid in his native country. He wasn't cared for the way a child should be and that's why he cares for Jennifer and her brothers. Sandino leaves her there in her drunken stupor and she belligerently stumbles back into the club.

    When April gets home, she finds a thankful Jennifer who begs and barters to stay with her. She pleads her case that her brothers have no where else to go. Emotional, April stops her mid-speech to reveal that she needs the kids to stay and she wants to learn how to care for them. She sends the kids to their new room to sleep the rest of the night.

    Sandino sees Jennifer, Manny and Byron the next day and tells them he is going away because he fought with April. He promises to write and call them regularly. The kids embrace him. After Sandino left, Jennifer talks to April. They unpack some of Mama Rose's things and tells her that he is a good man and April shouldn't let him go. She has had so many reasons to be distrustful of people, especially those who were too nice to her. However, Sandino seems genuine. He has always looked out for Jennifer and protected her from Randy's advances. The mood lightens thanks to comical information about the bible Jennifer relays that she gained from Madea trying to teach her about prayer and faith. Through an open window in her kitchen, April can hear the church choir down the street, singing a song her mother loved and she remarks her mother always knew when to show up. April falls into chorus and sings what she can remember about the song, right there in her kitchen. We hear the voices of Miss Wilma and Pastor Brian singing as well. Sandino is at the church service and goes up to be prayed for.

    After church, Sandino returns to April's house and she tells him she wants him to stay and help her with the kids. She admits that she thinks she loves him. He has no words so April, in fear of being rejected, defaults to telling him she loves him as a friend. Sandino barks that she doesn't even love herself and he loves her more than she does. She scoffs, "like a buddy?" And he explains that he doesn't want to make love to his buddies. Sandino explains that he is in love with April. April, shocked, laments that she is not good with relationships and really doesn't know how to love or be loved. Sandino says he'll show her and they share an incredibly passionate kiss.

    Sometime later, Sandino and April marry, with Jennifer, Manny and Byron participating in the wedding. They exit the church to the wedding reception, which is a block party. Tanya takes the stage to sing in honor of the newlyweds, April especially.

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