For Colored Girls- A Movie Review
An Honest Adaptation
Tyler Perry did a magnificent job transferring Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff, to the big screen. Though he shortened the title to For Colored Girls, and added a few characters, he kept the storyline and dialogue honest to the original script.
The plot portrays the struggles of eight women as they try to maintain family, career, and love relationships without becoming the bitches and nags that the society in which they live suggests they should be. All but one (Tangie) has a source of joy that she doggedly holds on to despite her circumstances. Though some of the women are acquainted with others in the group, no one is a friend to any other. However, all eight lives converge after a horrific tragedy breaks Crystal’s spirit to such a degree that she tries to commit suicide. It is after this that all the ladies realize that they must embrace the “God within” in order to take control of their lives. They call what they need “a laying on of hands”—and the audience gets the sense that this is exactly what this new sisterhood will provide for each other.
An Artsy Movie
Because this story was originally told in poetic rendering and Perry kept some of that poetry in the movie --and because a few scenes have several characters picking up lines from the same poem, For Colored Girls comes across as artsy. But those same elements bring the poignancy of the storyline to the forefront. To some (including the writer from The Huffington Post who gave the film a 5 out of 10), these elements create discomfort.
The Female Characters
Casting for For Colored Girls is absolutely on point. Not one actor falls short in any scene. Each woman from the original story, Kimberly Elise (Crystal), Janet Jackson (Jo), Loretta Devine (Juanita), Anika Noni Rose (Yasmine), Kerry Washington (Kelly), Thandi Newton(Tangie) and Tessa Thompson (Nyla) embodies her character to such a degree that in several crying scenes, we see snot and tears intermingle. We see the heart-ache on their faces, hear it in their voices and feel it in our hearts. Yes, there are tears shed in theaters across the country during this movie; on the day I saw it, some of those tears were mine. Perry adds three female characters who help pull the story lines together. The most important added character is Whoopi Goldberg’s religious fanatic, Alice. Goldberg plays Alice as crazy but well meaning. Once we know Alice’s story, we understand Tangie. Perry’s casting of Phylicia Rashad (Gilda) as the nosy apartment manager adds continuity between characters. At first we view her as one-dimensional (nosy) but quickly understand that she is that one “tree” of support that Crystal speaks of and that all the other ladies need. Macy Gray, as the alcoholic abortionist, could have been maligned by viewers, but she tells her story with such realism, we actually understand how she has come to be.
One discussion that accompanied the original play was about the issue of male bashing. I saw none of that. Although there were five males whose stories were tied to the female leads, only three had significant storylines of their own: Michael Ealy, as shell shocked Bo Willie, had our sympathy until he did the unthinkable; Richard Lawson, as the unable-to-commit, Frank, kept going back to a woman who had broken his heart, breaking the heart of Juanita, the woman who loved him. For some reason, we don’t really hate Frank; we just feel sorry for Juanita. Donald, played by Hill Harper is the most redeeming male in the movie. His love for Kelly is apparent in all their interactions. He tenderly supports her through their childless crisis. Yes, Omari Hardwick’s Carl is a date-rapist, but he gets his in the end, and Perry even gives the audience something to laugh at in Carl’s last scene. And since Khalil Kain’s Bill is down-low and married to cold and controlling Jo, even he comes across rather sympathetic. Perry does a wonderful job NOT bashing the males in For Colored Girls.
A Thumb's Up
Unlike most other movies directed by Tyler Perry, there is little humor in For Colored Girls. But also unlike his other movies, there are no places where a viewer feels preached to and there's no predictability. This movie may well push Perry even higher on the directorial charts. In his interview with Oprah, Perry said he was pleased with the end product. I can definitely see why. My humble advice: Go see For Colored Girls. It has a message for all girls—and quite a few boys.