This post has been a long time coming, partly because it took me a while to sort my feelings of the subject matter from my feelings about the actual movie. I posted in my other blog about how I felt about the issues addressed, ( you can read that here), but I never got around to reviewing the actual movie, so here we are.
First of all, I must admit I’ve never read the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (at least, I think that’s the whole title) in its entirety, nor have I seen it performed. I think this was good, in a way, because had I known what I would see in some instances, I would have been even more opposed to seeing it, and whatever else I say, I am glad I saw it.
A word about the soliloquies. I heard murmurs of people not liking the way he used them in the movie and saying they were awkward (I banned myself from actually reading reviews before or since I saw the movie until this was done). Most of the soliloquies worked fine. There were a few that I feel would have been better served by being broken up. Some of them were awkward because, where in a normal movie/conversation, someone would react, interrupt, or at least put out a comforting hand, people just sat looking shocked. Those were unbelievable, but most of them were moments when I felt “What could anyone really say?” It was good Perry didn’t try to invent any responses in this moment, and the original material seemed to convey the feeling better than the couching material Perry came up with.
In order for me to do this review, I’ve broken the review down by women, identified by the colors they wore (I’m glad Mr. Perry subtly kept the color identification and rarely named the women; it lent the story a feeling of universality it wouldn’t have had otherwise). I felt that, despite how long the movie was (and it WAS long), it wasn’t long enough to satisfactorily resolve some of the story lines with some of the women. I will indicate those as I go along.
Woman in Blue: There didn’t seem to be a crisis point or resolution to this storyline. I felt how conflicted she was when dealing with the woman in purple, given her situation, but what was the resolution? What did she and her husband decide to do? Where did we leave her?
Woman in Purple: Where were the consequence, the falling action? It seemed she had her crisis and had to own up to what happened, but there didn’t seem to be any residual effects. She was at a party by the end as if nothing had happened!
Woman in Red-I was conflicted about Janet Jackson’s performance. On the one hand, she was wonderful at being the uncaring diva, but the emotional parts fell flat. I felt like she could have done so much more with a woman used to being in control actually showing some emotion while still trying to be in control. That sorry soliloquy was one of the most hard hitting, emotional soliloquies in the movie, and she didn’t bring it on that soliloquy (although the content still made it one of my favorite parts of the movie).
Tangi: Her resolution fell flat to me, as well. This was doubly disappointing because Thandie Newton played this part so well. I kept thinking, Mariah Carey was supposed to play this character? No, honey; Thandie IS Tangi! She was born to do this. A fortuitous happening for all involved, that pregnancy.
Woman in Yellow: I feel like Anika Noni Rose did a great job with the material she was given, but I feel like they rushed her story after her traumatic event. Still, one of the most touching scenes was her watching that clock…I felt that scene stire something in me (cynical though I am).
Woman in Green: Loretta Divine was divine–again. Her soliloquy to Frank in the mirror, in which she utter my favorite line “I didn’t want to be sorry and colored too; that’s redundant”–was epic. However, I don’t see how her story line concluded. I didn’t see the point in which she decided to do things differently this time. I didn’t see why it stuck that time. And I wanted to, because she had played the character so well up to that point.
I don’t know what color she was, but Kimberly Elise was amazing. Even though I’m tired of seeing Kimberly said and broken (Woman, Thou Art Loosed, Diary of a Mad Black Woman), she plays that part so well, and this movie is no different. I felt the tension in her scenes. She had a really good chemistry with Michael Ealy (a strange thing to say in the circumstances, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it).
Macy Gray, Phylicia Rashad, and Whoopi Goldberg shined in their supporting roles, as well as the aforementioned Michael Ealy and Khalil Kain (whom I adore–just not his character in this movie). Overall, the acting was pitch perfect and spot on, except for a few places. Everyone came to this piece with great respect for the subject matters and prepared to really bring it.
The frame work of the movie felt contrived and a bit claustrophobic–all of this suffering and tragedy being lived out in tandem literally on top of each other was a bit exhausting. I liked how some of the stories were weaved together through occupations and such, but the ones who lived in the same building were a little to close and it was unimaginative to put them together that way. The ending was, as is usual with Perry, contrived and heavy handed.
It felt a bit dated in parts (the use of the word colored, and some of the subject matter has faded from popular view). I kept thinking that in 2010 we should know better than to do a lot of the things these women did, but do we?
I’m not sure if it was the beauty of the source material used, the awe-inspiring performances of the cast, or the reality of seeing so much Black talent being put on display, but I liked this movie. While it only showed a limited view of a type of Black Woman’s experience, it did so well overall. There were parts that didn’t gel, but overall, I wanted more of the movie rather than less.
I still want to get my hands on the original source material and see what makes the difference, but I was happy with Perry’s efforts, happier than with any of his other offerings. I think this is worth a DVD rental with your friends.
- Who is ‘For Colored Girls’ really for? (washingtonpost.com)
- Review: For Colored Girls Is Flawed But Fascinating (seattlepi.com)
- “REVIEW: Heavy-Handed For Colored Girls Can’t Sink Its Actresses” and related posts (movieline.com)
- Michael Ealy Discusses His Role In “For Colored Girls Only” (hellobeautiful.com)
- The Root Interview: Thandie Newton on ‘For Colored Girls’ (theroot.com)
- Kimberly Elise: ‘For Colored Girls’ A Selfless Act (npr.org)