THE COLOR PURPLE – A Review by Cynthia Flores
In 1985, few had much faith that director Steven Spielberg, even with the help of co-producer Quincy Jones, could helm such a beloved book by Alice Walker called The Color Purple. After all, that book made Walker the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was a brilliant feminist work about an abused and uneducated African American woman’s struggle for empowerment.
Up to this point in Mr. Spielberg’s career, he had only really done action films like the Indiana Jones series of movies and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He had yet to prove he could tackle a complex drama like this. Then, he put a nobody-comedic actress named Whoopi Goldberg in her film debut as the lead. What was he thinking? His gamble paid off in eleven Oscar nominations and record-breaking box office success. His feature film The Color Purple was eventually made into the hit 2005 Broadway musical produced by Oprah Winfrey (who co-starred in the film version). The musical The Color Purple earned eleven Tony nominations. Winning one for Best Actress.
Again, in this endeavor to bring The Color Purple (the Musical) to the big screen, Mr. Spielberg and his team take a chance on an unknown in this new film. This time, it was with director Blitz Bazawule. He co-directed the 2020 film Black is King with Beyoncé. The Color Purple is his first time on his own with a feature film. And he handles it well.
I say all this to impress upon you the legion of fans this story has garnered, whether in book, film, or musical on the stage. So the fact that Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Jones are back as producers along with the team that took it to Broadway, Scott Sanders and Oprah Winfrey, is a testament to the fantastic story Alice Walker wrote.
The Color Purple (2023) is centered on forty years in the life of Celie (Fantasia Barrino), a black woman living in the South in the early 20th century. The story is a testament to her resilience and joy in the face of extreme hardships. Which includes terrible sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather Alphonso (Deon Cole) and her husband Mister (Colman Domingo). It touches on themes of spirituality, racism, and violence. Ultimately, it celebrates the love and relationships shared between the women in Celie’s life, especially her friend Sofia (Danielle Brooks), her sister Nettie (Ciara), and her friendship-turned-relationship with blues singer Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson).
As a musical, The Color Purple is a rousing event on the big screen. They were lucky to get Fantasia Barrino to reprise the role she played on Broadway for two of its four-year run and revival run. The songs occur naturally and get the audience to applaud during the film. People who don’t like musicals where everyone just breaks into song for no reason may like this musical because there is plenty of talking between each well-placed musical number. One of my favorite songs was Hell No! performed by Daniell Brooks as Sofia. The audience at my screening shouted in approval at the screen towards the song’s end. And, of course, the soaring ballad I’m Here, belted out by Fantasia Barrino towards the end of the film, will make your heart soar.
I give The Color Purple 5 stars. It’s a must-see this holiday season. And such a wonderful Christmas gift to the world. I am sure it’s a gift that will keep giving come Oscar Time.
Directed by: Blitz Bazawule
Written by: Marcus Gardley, Alice Walker, Marsha Norman
Running Time: 2hr 20min
Wide Theatrical Release: December 25th
Starring: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.