Reviews

Review: For Colored Girls

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For Colored Girls is based on Ntozake’s first of fifteen plays, and left me confident that For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf could successfully be adapted into a movie, but this sure as hell wasn’t that example. There are many problems with this film, and I think one of them – including some of the actual Shakespearian dialogue – honestly could have been a great addition had it not been surrounded by so many other annoyances, but it just ended up being one more thing that made me upset to witness interesting scenes and dynamics being butchered.

With Tyler Perry stapled as a director, writer, and co-producer, I don’t think you have to look any further to find where the blame lies, but at least he had an amazing cast trying to make the best of his work for once. Read on if you care enough to know how Tyler Perry screwed up this time.

For Colored Girls is based on Ntozake’s first of fifteen plays, and left me confident that For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf could successfully be adapted into a movie, but this sure as hell wasn’t that example. There are many problems with this film, and I think one of them – including some of the actual Shakespearian dialogue – honestly could have been a great addition had it not been surrounded by so many other annoyances, but it just ended up being one more thing that made me upset to witness interesting scenes and dynamics being butchered.

With Tyler Perry stapled as a director, writer, and co-producer, I don’t think you have to look any further to find where the blame lies, but at least he had an amazing cast trying to make the best of his work for once. Read on if you care enough to know how Tyler Perry screwed up this time.{{page_break}}

Loretta Devine (Juanita) is one of the best type-cast actresses of our generation. Ever since I discovered her back in the TV show Boston Public I’ve enjoyed seeing her excel at playing the same powerful role over and over, and this was no exception. I haven’t seen much of Thandie Newton (Tangie) outside of Crash, but I was shocked to see her play a floozy so well. Janet Jackson (Jo) as a successful business woman in power obviously fits, as does Whoopi Goldberg (Alice) as an overly religious mother and Macy Gray (Rose) as a drunken amateur abortionist.

Phylicia Rashad (Gilda) would have come out beautifully unscathed if she wasn’t forced to spit out one of the play’s vocal poems in the middle of a pivotal scene. This is one of the many examples where the movie would have greatly benefited from letting go of its Broadway roots. Just as things would start to get good in a scene we’d see all progress stop as a woman lectures out a minute or more of dialogue. Having Gilda describe an ejaculation on Tangie as rhinestones on her back is fine, but don’t follow it up with 20 lines of theatrical and archaic lines. It tells us that a virulent, self-admitted whore would be okay with listening to someone artistically practicing prose in her living room; she wouldn’t.

Sometimes it felt like it wasn’t even the play seeping through that bothered me, but instead Perry’s inability to pick one line. The characters would say five sentences that all meant the same thing, beating us over the head long after the point had already been made. We have words for a reason. I can choose to call For Colored Girls loquacious or verbose, but don’t need to call it both.

Then there’s Anika Noni Rose (Yasmine) who was doing just fine until she gets raped and another plot arc tries to steal her thunder. Yes, having a traumatic event play out while flashing back and forth to an opera that’s taking place in front of different characters can work great. The Godfather did it with a baptism and The Fifth Element did a light hearted space opera version that was excellent. For Colored Girls is a great example of how it's not a sure fire way to enhance the current events.

An actress who gave all she had to her role was Kimberly Elise (Crystal) as an assistant and abused mother of two. Her violent husband (Michael Ealy) was great as someone who's a frightening father, but because they rush his unraveling too fast it left me cracking a smile as he snapped and unleashed what’s meant to be the most painful scene in the movie. It’s a great example of why pacing matters. Due to suspension of disbelief, people unconsciously are defensive when a story tries to evoke a strong emotion from them. Rush it, undersell it, or oversell it, and suddenly you have an audience laughing at a guy sawing his leg off (cough Saw cough).

For Colored Girls set out to weave together half a dozen award-worthy female storylines, yet only the younger daughter (Tessa Thompson) of Whoopi Goldberg made it from start to finish without being tarnished by bad directorial decisions. Like the child protective services lady (Kerry Washington) in the movie, I wanted to drag Tessa Thompson away from Terry Perry and find her a filmmaker who could give her the life she deserves. It’s hard to have the point of the movie being about women feeling pain due to the men in their life, and that they’re sick of hearing “Sorry” . . . when all this movie did was cause me pain and made me wish it would apologize to its viewers for ruining a potentially great film adaptation.

Overall Score: 5.65 — Bad.(5s are movies that either failed at reaching the goals it set out to do, or didn’t set out to do anything special and still had many flaws. Some will enjoy 5s, but unless you’re a fan of this genre, you shouldn’t see it, and might not even want to rent it.)

If you’re a woman with a lot of emotional pain on your life, then you might still enjoy this movie. For everyone else, just see Crash. Or rewatch it. Or actually get in a car crash. Okay, don't go that far, but this movie only frustrates you at how vastly better it could have been.

Robin Barr:

Overall Score: 6.75 — For Colored Girls has some interesting aspects but is overall poorly paced.  A movie that is too focused on the stage material it came from. You can read his full review here!