Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: "For Colored Girls" is Sho Enuf Good

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 15 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

For Colored Girls (2010)
Running time: 134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes)
MPAA – R for some disturbing violence including a rape, sexual content and language
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based upon the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange)
PRODUCERS: Roger M. Bobb, Paul Hall, and Tyler Perry
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alexander Gruszynski
EDITOR: Maysie Hoy


Starring: Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopi Goldberg, Macy Gray, Michael Ealy, Omari Hardwick, Richard Lawson, Hill Harper, and Khalil Kain

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is a 1975 stage play written by American playwright and poet, Ntozake Shange. It is my understanding that the Obie Award-winning play is a series of 20 poems or poetic monologues that express the struggles and obstacles that African-American women face throughout their lives.

Tyler Perry, the playwright turned prolific film director, adapted Shange’s play into the 2010 film, For Colored Girls. The film explores the lives of nine modern African American women, interconnected by one way or another, and uses poetic vignettes to illuminate their struggles, suffering, and conflicts (abuse, rape, and abortion, among others).

Among the characters is Joanne “Jo” Bradmore (Janet Jackson), a magazine publisher whose husband, Carl Bradmore (Omari Hardwick), is unfaithful. Promiscuous Tangie Adrose (Thandie Newton) and troubled teenager, Nyla (Tessa Thompson), are estranged sisters who find their mother, Alice Adrose (Whoopi Goldberg), to be the thing between them. Crystal Wallace (Kimberly Elise), who works for Jo, fails to see the true danger her abusive boyfriend, war veteran Beau Willie Brown (Michael Ealy), poses to her and her children. Meanwhile, watching everything and hoping to bring everyone together is apartment manager, Gilda (Phylicia Rashad).

I’ve always thought that Tyler Perry is as capable of directing moving film dramas as he is at staging broad comedies, and For Colored Girls affirms that, although 2009’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself already proved Perry could do drama. I’m surprised that this film has gotten such negative reviews, especially because Perry has taken the black social pathologies this story depicts and has transformed them into riveting tales of human pathology with a universal appeal.

Perry’s nuanced staging and graceful directing of the camera transform what could have been downbeat into a mesmerizing panorama of compelling character dramas. Seriously, if For Colored Girls looked exactly the same and a white filmmaker like Stephen Daldry, David Fincher, or Christopher Nolan was credited as the director, film critics would be turning verbal cartwheels to praise this film. Perry’s work here as a director can be described as, at least, occasionally virtuoso, and while his screenwriting here is weaker than his directing, Perry, as both writer and director, has done a superb job turning these poetic vignettes into a powerful film.

Perry gets some fantastic performances from his cast, especially the actresses, who all hit strong emotional notes. I hate to single out any, but if I had to pick favorites, I would go with Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, and Phylicia Rashad. Every moment she is onscreen, Elise delivers magic; her every move and glance makes you believe that Crystal Wallace is real. Thandie Newton is effortless in her brilliance (as usual), and Rashad shows colors, shades, and textures in a performance that certainly surprised me. I never knew she was that good.

However, all the women in this film shine, giving stirring performances that help For Colored Girls to ring true. Even if Tyler Perry doesn’t get his due from critics and haters, he has given us our due – a great African-American drama about Black women.

9 of 10

Friday, February 18, 2011


No comments:

Post a Comment