For Colored Girls Who Sat Through The Film & Were Underwhelmed…
Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls,” his much-anticipated film adaptation of Ntozoke Shange’s choreopoem, opened in theatres Friday. Black women bought tickets in droves nation-wide sparking major discussion about sisterhood and trife-ling men throughout the weekend. I was skeptical for several months about Shange’s iconic play left in the hands of a Black male director, but was eager to support Black art, film, and the ensemble cast of Black actresses. Unfortunately…I was rather underwhelmed.
Many themes were blatantly obvious and shots unnecessary as Perry reflects that subtlety and character development aren’t his stronger skills. Centering the leading characters in and around an old apartment building in Harlem seemed like an attempt at spoon-feeding the audience correlations of the characters’ interconnected struggles. For two hours the monologues were acted in some close ratio to the building and even the closing scene on the rooftop was reminiscent of the “Women of Brewster Place.” Not an original film concept. There were moments, however, when the brilliance of Shange’s prose rang clear hitting on universal, Black womanly truths. Several cast members, gave standout performances that resonated well after leaving the theatre. Loretta Devine, Felicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Macy Gray and newcomer *Tessa Thompson, all embodied the emotion of the original work yet delivered their monologues with fresh relatability. Their character experiences covered a myriad of life’s trials but two scenes brought me near tears due to the content and unfiltered talent of the actresses. The first was the abortion scene, with innocence and corruption played by Thompson and Gray. The second was Newton and Rashad’s generational warning around knowing one’s worth, exchanged in the hallway of the ratchet apartment building.
Melodrama, a reoccurring theme in Perry films, dominated the remaining scenes. One example is what would-be a climactic confrontation between “Lady in Red”/”Jo’s” character and her down-low husband that contracted and spread HIV to his wife. Jo’s (Jackson’s) flat monologue delivered seated on a bed with her back to her (felon?!) husband was painful to watch for all the wrong reasons. How did Janet manage to perform on a remedial acting level while in the company of some of the greatest actresses of our generation (Loretta Devine couldn’t offer a tutorial)? Another example, Anika Noni Rose’s tearful monologue post-rape, lacked authenticity as the entire rape scenario was shot choppy-style like a bad after school special complete with cheesy operatic background music. Kimberly Elise played the hell out of “weak-Black woman, tearful and depressed over her situation and family,”… but when hasn’t she played that exact same role?! Lady-in-Brown (Elise) cried just like Tisean in “Set It Off” (Elise). Yet another example was from one of the most memorable stories from the play, Beau Willie and the kids. Willie & (Elise) Brown’s dramatic scene played out in the middle of day, amidst a crowd of millions unable to assist-extremely unbelievable. Extremely. Also, the depiction of Black males in dominating and villanous roles (with the exception of Hill Harper) was expected from Perry, yet these were the times I yearned for Netflix and the ability to fast forward.
For those that loved the play and are familiar with the monologues (who doesn’t remember reciting yet not-fully grasping the content during High School drama class) like myself, you may view the film with a critical eye. However, the fact that Perry introduced the work to generations of new audiences that may have missed it otherwise, is worthy of cinematic celebration. Anytime talent of this magnitude and box office power combine to share OUR stories is awesome. Support a Black filmmaker! “For Colored Girls” was Vitamin D’s first #MMDD Event in Atlanta-movie viewing followed by late drinks and discussion. Special thanks to the ladies that attended, we had a GREAT time, and shout out to the ladies that politely responded via RSVP/email! *Air Kisses* There will be more events and I look forward to discussions in more Atlanta hot spots. What did you think of the film? Was it a Black film #classic or could you have waited for the Redbox release? Do share, and check the film for yourself! S