Thursday, November 11, 2010

Film Connect: For Colored Girls

Thoughts, just thoughts...

For Colored Girls is grisly.  It’s a tough movie full of characters making tough decisions living tough lives.   Yet there’s beauty in the poetry.  There’s beauty in the progress.  There is no happy ending, but many of the women are beginning to realize their worth as they take turns on a rooftop proclaiming the divinity of their love:

“My love is too MAGIC to be thrown back in my face!”
“My love is too SATURDAY NIGHT to be thrown back in my face!”

Many folks were nervous about director Tyler Perry turning Ntozake Shange's 1975 poetic play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Was Enuf into a movie.  Some were concerned about the change in genre, but most were concerned about Perry’s ability to do it justice.

I’ve never seen the play.  If I had, maybe I could understand the discontent I’ve read by different reviewers.  But as a standalone work, I think Perry did an overall good job...which is unfortunately not usually the case with his films (but I do enjoy the plays!).

Perry tends to be heavy handed with the exposition; his characters often tell instead of show.  In this film, the one scene where this stands out is when Janet Jackson (Jo) confronts her husband in the whole “who’s bending over who” conversation. The scene works until the husband says something to the effect of “I’m just a man who enjoys having sex with men.”  The line is artificial coming from this guy. He wouldn't have said that.  Plus, we already know that, so it's just unnecessary.

Thandie Newton’s character, Tangie,  is by far the most interesting. In one scene she brings a  man home from the bar and he mistakes her for a prostitute . When she tells him that’s not her profession, he catches us by surprise when he bursts into laughter, seriously smashing up Tangie's ego. Her embarrassment is tangible.

Another intriguing moment is the one in which Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Alice, enters her overstuffed apartment where hoarded boxes are piled up to the ceiling. Alice scans the clutter as she makes her way through, quickly eyeballing each item.  She finds something out of place and chastises her teenage daughter, “I don’t like when you move my things.”  It’s a small line, a tiny moment, but Whoopi's character is so tense and convincing that I felt sorry for her not knowing the whereabouts of her "things."

Another curious scene takes place when Gilda admonishes a depressed Crystal, telling her she must take some responsibility for the demise of her children.  On one hand, I appreciate the character’s honesty; most people, even good friends, are rarely able to be that frank with each other.  But I questioned the timing of Gilda’s tough love talk.  It’s obvious Crystal was still steeped in despair and potentially unstable.  The accountability lecture could've waited.

For Colored Girls is not just for “colored” girls, of course. It’s worth checking out for anyone who doesn’t mind leaving the theater with misty eyes and a runny nose.

Additional Notes:

  • Does Kimberly Elise have to cry in every role?
  • Phylicia Rashad is regal in everything, even a shabby apartment on the fifth floor.
  • Loretta Devine plays “regular black lady that lives around the corner” to the T.
  • Macy Gray plays off-center quite well.  Not sure she’s acting...

And oh yeah, they can go ahead and give me this dress...