The Color Purple | Review by: Gal Balaban


Though everyone in this new cinematic rendition The Color Purple is one of the best at what they do, the idea of making this a musical doesn't always fit with the tone of all the rough things going on in the characters' world, and the very clean cinematography removes the grit that Steven Spielberg's version had that showed you the weight of the hardships and abuse Celie endured. Here, the most earned moments for Celie's character aren't necessarily her musical numbers but rather moments where Fantasia Barrino gets to shine just based on her interactions with other actors or set pieces that inform Celie's character. Barrino is very strong in the role, but Taraji P. Henson runs away with the movie every time she shares a scene with her, or anyone for that matter. Henson portrays blues singer and "loose woman" Shug Avery with a power to her that commands every other character in both a loving and wise way, not to mention her show-stopping musical number in a tavern. Danielle Brooks is the other highlight as Sofia, whose character's shamelessness and courage shine through in both her songs and her incredible physical acting. Colman Domingo is simply incredible as Mister, inhabiting the character in not an inch less of meanness and disgust as Danny Glover did so brilliantly in the 1985 film, but also giving the abusive man a quietly human edge to him that Domingo finds even when the audience doesn't want to see it. Corey Hawkins, Halle Bailey, and H.E.R. also give strong turns due to their potent screen presences and musical talents, and even Louis Gossett Jr. shows up for an excellent short appearance.

There's no denying how amazing their singing and dancing is. However, it's the songs themselves that don't blend in with the material this story is telling. Save for a song or two, the lyrics aren't quite memorable, either. This imagination of the story works much better as a stage musical, where the audience can interact with the actors in real space as they sing and dance. For a film that gets cruelly serious at times, though the more uplifting song breaks don't compliment the more hard-hitting scenes as much as the film would like to think, even though the actresses are always killing it. Although the costume design is award-worthy, the digital cinematography may have given it more of a music video edge that director Blitz Bazawule is used to, which could've benefitted from longer shots and a more period-like look. In short, come for the spectacular cast and a timeless story, but there's no promising audiences won't prefer the rougher and more dramatically coherent film that Spielberg led back in 1985 with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Gal Balaban 

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