The Color Purple

The Color Purple
The Color Purple
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Alice Walker’s 1982 book “The Color Purple” has been a well-scripted piece in the past, as evidenced by the Oscar-nominated film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg and the 2005 Broadway musical. The new movie of Blitz Bazawule is a combination of these different approaches that is both a stunning hybrid imagery mixing written words meditations and thunderous energies through musical performance.

Celie (played as a young woman by Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, and as an adult by Fantasia Barrino) is the main character in “The Color Purple”. When they were still young girls, Celie and Nettie (Halle Bailey) would play on the beach while whispering to each other and singing songs. While they are fully engaged in their childhood games when alone together, however, at home is their abusive father who controls their lives through oppression. First, she must endure her father selling off her children for a second time before he treats her just like them; thus she becomes pregnant twice. Then she must accept being auctioned as Mister’s wife by Mr.___. Rather than escape, what she finds with Mister is another household ruled with violence.

With Nettie gone forever from their lives since she ran away from home leaving Celie without any sisters or reliable family friend or child to support her thereby forcing Celie to live a very discouraging life alone. Nonetheless Harpo loves another woman named Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), his wife Sofia’s fiancée but Mr.___ never remained committed for too long to this “fast and loose” blues singer. Only in knowing that somewhere out there might be her sister and children does Celie find some relief also through Sophia (Danielle Brooks), who happens to be her daughter-in-law-a stubborn little lady ready for anything.

In “The Color Purple,” all of the performances are what make this film great. Both Mpasi and Barrino, in their debut films, skillfully inhabit Celie’s contemplative state of mind and tentativeness tinged with anger. In particular, Mpasi is simply magnetic, her entrancing smile and grippingly silent face sends shivers down your spine. The bond between her and Bailey is very strong; it is apparent that the two actresses had an amazing time on set because this estrangement remains palpable despite Nettie’s absence from the screen.

As a more mature Celie, however, Barrino is also outstanding, maintaining a childish naivete throughout her acting whilst indicating a woman who has aged but been stunted socially by oppressive men.

Danielle Brooks’ Tony-nominated portrayal as Sofia earned herself a place as one of the greatest performers in “The Color Purple.” She commands attention whenever she appears onscreen—her charismatic presence cannot be ignored. Her range of emotional modulation which includes everything from gut-wrenching scenes to hilarious ones makes this movie well worth watching. Sofia is known for not allowing people to ignore or underestimate her; thus Brook’s performance must evoke such feelings.

However, Shug, as played by Henson, is the weak link in “The Color Purple.” Henson’s overacting stands out among the cast who are genuine throughout. Although many of her scenes are meant to provide comic relief amidst despair, there is a certain falseness to Shug’s act that does not match with the film’s other gut-wrenching soul-baring. A diva like Shug performs because she feels insecure about herself and yet also refuses to be defined by anything else except her own means and this kind of character needs an unshakable charm and depth of performance which Henson never quite captures. That’s why, in practice or on paper either way, most of the film fails to find its footing when it comes to her character.

This requires selectivity in identifying key moments and biographical bullet points around Celie’s life since such a lengthy period is covered. The movie eventually takes wrong directions more often than not spending too much time on shug that disrupts the pacing during a particular moment for example. Also there are some musical numbers that feel extraneous unlike some of the big highlights found in this film. However, most often these triumphant musical numbers contain as much emotional weight as they possibly can hold. For instance, from “Hell No”’s defiant pride through the heart-breaking vulnerability and catharsis of “I’m Here,” no one ignores how well cast did the choreography and vocals work. Also through it all America South shines warmly while being portrayed here stunningly as a separate character whose backdrops serve only its music pieces.

“The Color Purple” is a brilliant emotional portrait of a woman’s life set against both predictable but often notorious adversities suffered by black women everywhere. Yet even though everything seems stacked against them throughout “the color purple,” it is ultimately about community among blacks be they sexual sisters or blood family members or others besides them. Because this is a story of survival and determination, spanning several decades, it stands in testament to the most recent retelling of a beloved tale.

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