The Color Purple Movie Review


'The Color Purple' movie review

Alice Walker's 1982 masterpiece, "The Color Purple," has previously captivated audiences through various adaptations, including Steven Spielberg's acclaimed Oscar-nominated film and the Broadway musical that graced stages in 2005. In Blitz Bazawule's latest cinematic endeavor, these distinct artistic forms converge seamlessly, giving rise to a remarkable hybrid that skillfully intertwines the profound reflections of the written narrative with the electrifying dynamism inherent in musical performance.

"The Color Purple" intricately weaves the life story of Celie, portrayed in her youth by the talented Phylicia Pearl Mpasi and later in adulthood by the captivating Fantasia Barrino. In the opening scenes, we witness the carefree moments of Celie and her sister Nettie (enacted by Halle Bailey), as they frolic along the shoreline, sharing secrets and harmonizing in song. However, this innocence sharply contrasts with the harsh reality awaiting them within the confines of their home — a dwelling marked by the tyranny of an abusive father, whose oppressive rule dictates the course of their lives.

The poignant narrative takes a tragic turn as Celie, a young girl bearing the weight of a second pregnancy, must endure the heart-wrenching experience of her father callously selling her infants. This initial betrayal is compounded when Celie becomes the victim of her father's cruelty once more, subjected to his disdain as he auctions her off as a wife to Mister (brought to life by the talented Colman Domingo). What initially appears as a potential escape for Celie, however, unfolds as a cruel twist of fate, as she discovers that her new life with Mister merely represents a transfer from one violent household to another.

In the unfolding chapters of Celie's journey, the film masterfully explores themes of resilience, capturing her unwavering spirit as she confronts the profound challenges that life thrusts upon her. Through it all, Celie's story becomes a compelling testament to the human capacity for endurance and the pursuit of strength amidst adversity.

As Nettie makes her escape, the sisters lose contact, leaving Celie to navigate the dispiriting decades ahead without her sister, a reliable family, or children. Trudging through the challenges alone, Celie is shackled to an abusive husband who, in every sense of the word, is infatuated with another woman—Shug Avery (portrayed by the talented Taraji P. Henson), a "fast and loose" blues singer with an unpredictable lifestyle. Celie's only glimpses of solace come from the distant hope that her sister and children are alive somewhere and the support she receives from Shug and Sofia (played by Danielle Brooks), her spirited and strong-willed daughter-in-law.

How Much did Taraji Make for the Color Purple ?

'The Color Purple' movie review

The success of "The Color Purple" undeniably hinges on the powerhouse performances delivered by its cast. Mpasi and Barrino, both making their film debuts, excel in bringing Celie to life. They skillfully convey the character's internal reflections, hesitancy, and, most notably, her enduring resilience. Mpasi, in particular, commands attention with her gravitational presence—her hypnotic smile and wordless expressions evoke chills. The on-screen chemistry between Mpasi and Bailey is palpable, selling their bond with genuine vigor, ensuring that the emotional impact of Nettie's absence remains poignant despite her limited on-screen presence.

Barrino, portraying the elder Celie, delivers an incredible performance, maintaining a veneer of childhood naivety while skillfully depicting an aged woman who has been developmentally and socially constrained by the tyrannical men in her life. Her portrayal expertly conveys the complex layers of Celie's character, showcasing the enduring impact of a lifetime marked by adversity.

Danielle Brooks, Tony-nominated for her stage depiction, emerges as the film's undeniable knockout, delivering a performance that is sure to please crowds. Her charismatic presence is nothing short of spellbinding, and her emotional versatility, seamlessly transitioning from tear-jerking moments to side-splitting humor, is a true joy to witness. Sofia, celebrated for her unwavering refusal to be ignored, underestimated, or disrespected, is brought to life with commanding force by Brooks, whose performance demands the same level of attention and respect.

Yet, where "The Color Purple" encounters a stumble is in Taraji P. Henson's portrayal of Shug. Amidst a cast that exudes authenticity, Henson's performance stands out for its tendency toward overacting. While her scenes provide moments of levity in the midst of despair, there's a discernible artificiality to Shug's depiction that fails to harmonize with the film's overall soul-baring intensity. Shug is a character defined by diva-like qualities, using performance as a shield against insecurity while steadfastly refusing to be confined by anything other than her own terms. This character archetype demands an unwavering charisma and depth of performance, a mark that Henson doesn't quite hit. Consequently, Shug struggles to find her place, both in the performance and on the narrative canvas.

In covering an expansive span of time, the film grapples with the challenge of selectivity, deciding which highlights and biographical points around Celie's life to include. "The Color Purple" occasionally takes less compelling detours, dedicating excessive time to Shug and causing the pacing to stutter in her spotlight. Additionally, a few musical numbers feel expendable, lacking the seamless integration found in some of the film's more significant moments. Nevertheless, the triumphant musical sequences, such as the prideful defiance of "Hell No" and the soul-stirring vulnerability of "I'm Here," showcase the cast's choreographic and vocal prowess, leaving a lasting impact. The film skillfully utilizes the warm and luminous backdrop of the American South, turning it into a character of its own, seamlessly integrated into the emotional tapestry of the musical numbers.

"The Color Purple" stands as a brilliant emotional portrait, capturing the intricacies of a woman's life, distinctly marked by the inherent adversities of Black womanhood—unfortunately, experiences not uncommon. Within the weight of seemingly insurmountable odds, the film's true impact lies in the solidarity of Black sisterhood, whether bound by blood or forged through shared experiences. It serves as a powerful testament to resilience and perseverance, unfolding as a stunning decades-long coming-of-age story. "The Color Purple" faithfully and adoringly asserts itself as the latest rendition of a cherished narrative, a poignant reflection on the enduring strength and unity found within the Black community.

Experience this emotional journey in theaters nationwide on December 25th.

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