Reel Shorts | For Colored Girls

5 11 2010

This review first appeared in Jet Magazine.com. To read this review at its original source, click here.

Since his debut in 2005, writer/producer/director Tyler Perry has nurtured and maintained a loyal following with a series of popular films based on his stage plays that mix emotional characters, spirituality and comedy into a winning formula. His latest film, “For Colored Girls,” is an overly-talky drama featuring some strong individual performances that uplifts the ladies while treating the men as cinematic roadkill.

Based on Ntozake Shange’s Obie-winning play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” Perry transforms her choreopoem into a working narrative that explores a group of interconnected women all dealing with various degrees of emotional pain and grief. Transferring the action from the stage to an apartment building, these “colored girls” have plenty going on.

The film features multiple plot lines: in one a distraught mother of two (Kimberly Elise) treads lightly with her abusive, alcoholic war vet husband (Michael Ealy); in another, an emotionally empty woman (Thandie Newton) only connects to intimacy through casual sex; in a third story, a woman (Loretta Devine) is in love with a man (Richard Lawson) who treats her home like a romantic revolving door; meanwhile, a social worker (Kerry Washington) deals with secrets and guilt from her past as her honorable husband (Hill Harper) lovingly offers support.

There’s also: a free-spirited dance instructor (Anika Noni Rose) who is dealing with trust issues and deciding how close to get to a charming stranger (Khalil Kain); a controlling religious mother (Whoopi Goldberg) who is estranged from one daughter and placing unrealistic expectations on her younger daughter (Tessa Thompson), who has a secret of her own; and a stern and dominating magazine publisher (Janet Jackson) who is suffocating her underachieving husband (Omari Hardwick) while he keeps a potentially deadly secret. All this takes place under the watchful eye of an apartment manager (Phylicia Rashad) who sees all and provides support and counsel to the various building inhabitants.

Exploring the many “dark phases of womanhood,” the story is steeped in emotional pain, with each character sinking deeper into their personal abyss. The film does possess many noteworthy powerful moments, including one involving a backroom abortion that features a solid performance by Macy Gray. Noni Rose is brilliant in a scene after her innocence is stolen, there is a tender scene between Newton and Rashad that is arguably the film’s best, and Elise is heartbreaking living through a mother’s worst nightmare. The film is emotionally demanding almost to the extent that audiences have nothing left to give!

Shange’s thoughtful poems explore tough issues, and Perry’s films have always given voice to the voiceless. The film suffers, however, when Perry’s contemporary dialogue is blended with Shange’s powerful prose. The film also uplifts women at the expense of some the most heinous depictions of Black men in modern film. There is only one positive male character, which is sure to disappoint male moviegoers.

This latest female event movie is a “Brewster’s Place” meets “Waiting to Exhale” that does not feature a dominating performance such as Monique’s Oscar-winning turn in “Precious.” It does offer hope at the end, as evidenced by the film’s final line, “I found God in myself/and I loved her/I loved her fiercely.”

Perry has produced a credible adaptation of Shange’s work that will likely satisfy his core female audience while possibly leaving men scratching their heads wondering if he will ever tell their story and treat their experiences with the love and respect that he showers on the opposite sex.

Grade: C-

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2 responses

6 11 2010
Margaret

4CG wore me out! Excellent and creative way to display the poems I felt the compassion in one scene,was scare in another scene, yell in one and cried all at the same time. Can someone say Oscar material?

8 11 2010
Movieaholic

I saw this movie 2x’s really tough movie to watch back to back. I really could relate with the poems the 2nd go around with the exception of the scene with Whoopie and her daughter exhausted and reciting them both at the same time. Powerful, emotional, wore me out.

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