Friday, December 3, 2010

For Colored Girls

BEST OF 2010

I am not too familiar with the films of Tyler Perry. I know he is to blame for the Madea film series. From what I can tell, a series of films based on family bond, religion, and filled with overacting and/or bad acting. These are of no interest to me as a movie goer. When I heard he was filming the adoption to the Ntozake Shange play/poem, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, I was worried about the way Perry would handle the film. I wasn't wrong to be concerned. Perry allows for the film to happen too quickly. The film jumps so quickly from scene to scene. Before one can really take in the entirety of the previous scene. This weakens some of the films heaviest moments. I wonder if Perry was dressing down the darkness of the material to make it more suitable for a mainstream audience.

I wish Perry would have set the film in the 1970s, when the play was originally written. I think the film could have been grittier and filled with a lot more impact. Not to say the film doesn't have plenty of impact. I must have teared up at least four times. Perry's film is too pretty to look at due to the way he has his acrtresses dressed, the buildings designed, and the rooms painted. Everything is a little too glossy. Even the back alley abortionist (played by Macy Gray) is too glamorous. I would have liked to see a more realistic, harsher view of Shange's play.

I have always admired film adaptions of plays. I adore the way people speak in plays. And on the occasions when the plays are made into great films (Closer), the dialogue sticks out and cuts right to your heart. In For Colored Girls, the dialogue taken directly from the play stands out right away. The actresses deliver the lines with rhythm, like the spoken word poems of the play are to be delivered. These monologues stand out like Shakespearean asides. I imagine many would have issue with these moments. But, it helped to give a roundness to the characters that Perry didn't demand of his actresses. Clearly he felt the lines from the play were enough to shape these women. And, for most of them, this may be true.

Towards the end of the film, Janet Jackson's character states how much power women have to give up to men. She's talking about love in this moment. But, she's talking about everything. This film portrays nine women in moments where they have lost all control. And then how the rest of your life is lost fighting against those hands of control. It's a powerful, heavy message and is mostly delivered in this film without pushing it down the audiences throat.

I would have liked to see different actresses for a few of these characters. Or, for Perry to have demanded more from their performances. Whoopi Goldberg is incredibly weak. Perhaps the most disappointing. Phylicia Rashad is a little reserved in her role, but not so much so that I didn't enjoy her time on the screen. Loretta Devine will always make me cry. Her voice so fragile and her face so innocent. Each time she cries I break a little. Devine is fantastic in her role.

The film suffers with Perry in charge, but the material is strong enough to still maintain the heart and emotion of the original work.


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