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"The Color Purple (the Musical)": A Movie Review


Blurb:  A woman faces many hardships in her life, but ultimately finds extraordinary strength and hope in the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood.


Fantasia Barrino (in her film debut)

Taraji P. Henson

Danielle Brooks (nominated for Best Supporting Actress)

Colman Domingo

Halle Bailey

Corey Hawkins

Gabriella Wilson "H.E.R."

Phylicia Pearl Mpasi

Louis Gossett Jr.

Directed by:  

Blitz Bazawule

Written by: 

Marcus Gardley, based on the stage musical of the same name, which is based on the 1982 novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker


I think it is best if I started my review by telling you what I liked about The Color Purple musical before anything else.

First of all is of course, the music. I really enjoyed it a lot, especially the songs "Hell No!" (the part of the story where Sofia leaves Harop for hitting her) and then--wow--the last three songs "I'm Here" (easily and by far my favorite song in the movie, where Celie truly comes into her own power), "The Color Purple" (the last scene in the movie) and "Superpower" (the end credits). And what I really loved about "I'm Here" is that the lyrics fit beyond the movie and speaks of everyday lives. Or it could, or even should. Here is part of them, where I was sitting up in my chair....!

Got my house, it still keep the cold out

Got my chair when my body can't hold out

Got my hands doing good like they s'posed to

Showing my heart to the folks that I'm close to

Got my eyes though they don't see as far now

They see more 'bout how things really are now

I'm gonna take a deep breath

Gonna hold my head up

Gonna put my shoulders back

And look you straight in the eye

I'm gonna flirt with somebody

When they walk by

I'm gonna sing out

Sing out

I believe I have inside of me

Everything that I need to live a bountiful life

And all the love alive in me

I'll stand as tall as the tallest tree

And I'm thankful for every day that I'm given

Both the easy and hard ones I'm livin'

But most of all, I'm thankful for

Lovin' who I really am

I'm beautiful

Yes, I'm beautiful

And I'm here

That song and those lyrics make the movie worth watching alone!

I must also say that the choreography is wonderful. And the movie is gorgeous! Simply a treat for the eyes. And I imagine anyone seeing The Color Purple in the theater of a big screen must have been dazzled! And as far as the acting goes, Danielle Brooks was quite good as Sofia, Taraji P. Henson was all right as Shug Avery, and Fantasia Barrino gave us a passable Celie.

But I am sorry to say that the word "passable" is really the best I can say for the rest of the movie.

Frankly, all I could do in each and every scene, until the last twenty minutes or so, was compare it to the original movie The Color Purple, and find those each and every scenes as second best. And this isn't because the original is one of my favorite movies of all time. I know how to give a second or third version of a story or movie its due. But the musical version just lacked....purple. It lacked passion. It lacked feeling. The only scene where I truly got caught up (and I am going to trust you have scene the classic original version, or there are spoilers ahead if there weren't already plenty) was when Celie finds out that her father isn't really her father, that her children aren't her father's children, and that her real father loved her. That is the scene where Fantasia Barrino really tears up the scenery with her big number "I'm Here." And how!

But the rest of the time....well....I was bored. I started drifting off at one point and didn't mind in the least turning it off to return to it another day. Then I forgot all about it, only having it surface in my mind now and again as something I needed to finish so I could check it off my Oscar Nominees list. I didn't get back to it until this morning (Sunday, and I watched the first part on Thursday night) before church was about the time that Sofia gets out of prison and the Shug takes Celie away to live with her that I finally cared what happened next. It was as if a new director stepped in and said, "It's okay Blitz, I got this. You sit down and relax." It was almost a different film! Absolutely everything stepped up! I was finally thinking, Oh! I hope I finish this before I have to leave for church!

Except then, when we get to this mysterious part of the movie where Celie has decided to invite Mister that the film suddenly plops again. All the energy is just gone. It looked as if Blitz said, "No! This is my movie! Give it back!" And I wish he hadn't.

Here is what really got me. When Mister reveals, as extra guests for their big dinner around a giant tree, that he has brought Celie's sister, her children, a wife and two grandchildren to surprise her that the only reason I got emotional (I figure this out an hour or two later) was that I was channeling (once again) the original movie.

I have been rattling this around my brain and trying to figure out what I didn't like about it and what keeps coming to surface all the time was that I was told that they went back to the book for a lot of inspiration (because the Steven Spielberg's version apparently left out a lot of the passion from the novel), and yet I saw nothing new (except again, for the part that finally stepped it up a bit at the end). The whole movie just made me feel like it was nothing but the movie with some songs added. Except that each and every time one of the many parts came along that I loved, it simply wasn't as good. Why even when Celie spits in Mister's father's water, I found I simply didn't care. It was as if Blitz Bazawule sucked all the color and emotions out of the original film and gave us an anemic detached version instead. And you can't have anemia in a musical. Not unless it's about vampires.

I also wondered if they were taking tons of inspiration from the stage version, because so often a movie version lets fans of a stage play down. One of the only movies I think that really caught the power of the stage play and yet still was its own was Chicago. Pow! The Color Purple was not Chicago.

I had to agree with reviewer Rosalynn Try-Hane who said, "Overall, this is a solid musical adaptation but strangely devoid of the emotional devastation of the 1985 original," or reviewer Luis Martínez who said, "The new version of Alice Walker's original story puts the emphasis on healing rather than the wound." I couldn't agree more.

I was so disappointed. The Color Purple was not snubbed for Oscars. It was not left out due to racism. It was just boring.

SO.... I am going to give The Color Purple, the musical, five coffees out of ten, because there were people giving it the old college try. But I can clearly see why this movie didn't do well.



Warning: The following is a complete synopsis of the movie. It's nothing but spoilers. Read at your own risk!

In 1909 Georgia, teenager Celie Harris lives with her sister Nettie and abusive father Alfonso. Her mom passed away some time ago after which Alfonso started raping Celie; this causes her to become pregnant twice. When Celie gives birth to her second child, Alfonso takes the child away as he had done with the first. He then forces her to marry a local farmer and father of three, Albert "Mister" Johnson.

When Alfonso tries to molest Nettie, she moves into Mister's farmhouse until he exiles her when she rebuffs his advances. She promises to write to Celie every day before leaving. By 1917, Celie is still married to Mister, while his son Harpo marries fierce, defiant Sofia. Harpo tries to build a house, but later turns it into a juke joint. Celie befriends Sofia, but she leaves Harpo when he tries to beat her.

One day, independent jazz singer Shug Avery comes to town to perform at the joint. Harpo has been seeing another woman named Mary "Squeak" Agnes. When he tries to dance with Sofia, Mary Agnes cuts in and ends up starting a fight that trashes the joint.

Celie begs Shug to stay with her, but Shug decides to bring her instead. When they return to Mister's home, Shug finds and reveals to Celie a letter in the mailbox addressed to Celie from Nettie, revealing that Nettie has been living in Africa.

Back in Georgia, Sofia is called out by the mayor's wife to be her maid, but she refuses and gets involved in a physical fight, resulting in her arrest. She is released after six years and ends up having to work for the mayor's wife anyway, sinking into a deep depression that seemingly takes away all of her fierceness.

On Easter Sunday in 1943, Celie confronts Mister in front of his father and their family and leaves him along with Shug. Mary Agnes goes with them to Memphis, inspiring Sofia out of her stupor. Celie vows to Mister that until he does right by her, everything in his life will crumble.

In 1945, when Alfonso dies, it's revealed by his wife that he wasn't Celie or Nettie's biological father, and through their mother, both sisters own the grocery store and the home they were brought up in. Celie starts up a pants clothing shop with help from Shug, Sofia, and Mary Agnes. Meanwhile, Mister has become a miserable drunk. He vows to do right by Celie and later visits her shop and buys a pair of pants. While she is hesitant to see him, she agrees to maintain a friendship with him. Mister plots to reunite Celie and Nettie.

In 1947, Celie reunites with Nettie, along with Adam and Olivia, Celie's children. She joins hands with them as she and everyone else thanks God for how far they have come.*

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Will Jones
Will Jones

I'll agree that the music stood out.

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