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Monday, November 8, 2010

To Like Or Not To Like? That Is The Question....

OK. So saw Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls" over the week-end. I purposely didn't read any reviews before seeing it (though I really wanted to) as I wanted to view it from my own perspective. I thought about writing this review the same day as seeing it, but I was unsure how I felt about it.

The fact is, I'm still pretty unsure. I know for a fact that it is the only Tyler Perry movie that I have ever even remotely liked, but I'm not sure how much. I saw the play when I was a little girl with my parents. It was long ago, but I do remember certain things about it. I remember thinking while watching the film "I don't remember any men being in that play". Sure there was talk about them, but I didn't remember seeing any.

The other thing, which I think may be my biggest problem with the film (besides the bad wigs and make-up) was that I didn't remember it being such a joyless experience to watch. At the play I remember feeling uplifted, with a great deal of admiration for the women involved. I remember that being colored and a girl seemed like a very great thing to be.

It is obvious Perry did try very hard to rise above his limitations, but we eventually get back to the branded theme of "bad Black men are the root of all Black women's ills." I'm ready to admit that bad relationships are afflicting our community in a huge and negative way, but that, monolithically, is certainly not the root of a great many of our problems. I would place racism high amongst that list (which I don't remember being talked about on any level in the film), as well as poverty, fifth rate education in public schools, lack of concern for nutrition, no genuine leadership in the community, and a host of other reasons as things we are to examine to make ourselves whole in the world.

Another limitation that has kept me from really getting into Perry's films is a complete lack of subtlety. I remember that the play was beautiful, and though not all beautiful things are subtle (certainly not), that was the beauty of this particular play. It made you think, to solve the riddles of Ntozake Shange's verse and prose. In the film, the transitions from regular speaking to the lines in the play were jarring, and mostly clumsily handled. A couple of times I found myself thinking "what the f*ck is she talking about?" only to realize a few moments later that a character was speaking lines from the play.

I did not think it lessened the experiences that were to be learned by adding men into the mix. And of course, the prose had to be expanded upon to make the film less "play-like", because as a lot of my readers have let me know, they are not huge fans of straight-on plays on film...I didn't think that detracted from the original messages of Shange. It was beautifully shot, and the set design seemed to be thoughtful. Everyone gave close to amazing performances, with special kudos to Whoopi Goldberg (surprising), Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton (underrated), and Macy Gray (whom I always love as an actress).

But I could not escape the feeling of claustrophobia that set in for me midway into the film. The close, tight face shots; the small, cramped apartments--began to close in on me. In the beginning of the film it was expansive and full of possibilities; as the film progressed and the plotlines and characters started to begin to be involved with one another, I felt myself shrinking. As everything became smaller and more universal, instead of feeling identity in the close relationships and growth of these women, I felt suffocated, and thoughts of wanting to escape the film began to arise.

"How long is this movie?" "Why is it so relentless in it's sadness and anger and hopelessness?" "Why doesn't anyone move from this horrible apartment building?" "Why does Janet Jackson's face look like a Kabuki mask?" And so on. Rape, abuse, mental illness, murder, undercover homosexuality....why did I not remember all of that from the play?

When the film ended, I was relieved. I don't think I've ever felt that way before about a movie. But I have to say I was relieved to see the misery about the pain men cause be over, to not have to look at the dreary apartments anymore, and to not see Lorretta Devine's craptastic wig any longer.

And that is DEFINITELY not what I should have been left with. The meaning of "Colored Girls" is to give hope and good cheer, to let Black women know that everything we need in this life, and any other life, is already inside of us. To let us know that as long as we support one another is sisterhood, in creativity, in our awesome womaness, it doesn't matter what a man does, or a whole race, or the whole world. We have to, and can, support and hold each other up.

That was the feeling I was left with in the play. The film seems to be a lot less emphatic about those things. And those messages--in and of themselves, are what kept this from being a great film, and instead simply a great try.


ladyglen ChicagoStyle said...

What a great review you have here. I personally enjoyed it but I diassociated the movie with the play and novel. I looked at it as if it were a Tyler Perry original creation since he altered Ntozake Shange's original work so much. I enjoyed all the actors performances but, I took a special liking to Janet Jackson and Kimberly Elise (one of my personal favorites).

Weird thing happened during the screening I went to. Every scene Whoopi Goldberg was in, the audience laughed as if it were a comedy sketch. Weird!

The good thing least a dozen plus black actors got work.

Marvalus said...

I didn't write a full-scaled review, because I think the poem is too personal to me to be objective. Still, you nailed it on the head what was missing: the joy. These women had not one iota of joy. There was no light, and that is a direct result of Tyler Perry's hand on this.

All I keep hearing is Oscar buzz for Janet; that is so not what I saw. Now, Kimberly Elise? Definitely. Anika Noni Rose? Absolutely. Even Phylicia Rashad, maybe even Loretta Devine. Macy Gray absolutely floored me. I was scared and shaking during her brief moment...and that is a good thing.

Overall, I liked it. I didn't love it, and if I'm being true to myself, I can pick it apart like a piece of fried chicken. But I won't.

Good review, IW...I've missed you!

Don said...

Saw the post link come across Twitter and I immediately clicked, interested in your perspective.

True enough, yours spoke of my EXACT sentiments towards Tyler Perry's latest effort, although I've never read Shange's piece.

Not that Perry's adaptation of FCG was less than quality, not really, it's just that for someone like myself who had never read the book, it kinda left me feeling "depth-less", depth which certain scenes and characters lacked.

Still, it's good to see Tyler Perry step from behind the routine cookie-cutter pattern and tackle a more poignant storyline. And, I agree, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kimeberly Elise gave remarkable performances.

I cannot wait to purchase the book so I can receive the much-needed depth and my woman can stop getting on my nerves, frustrated that I hardly witnessed the same movie she did. Lol.

Hilarious @ A couple of times I found myself thinking "what the f*ck is she talking about?"

Enjoyed the read. You and Thembi bring HEAT with the reviews.

Mahes said...

Really nice review.. I like it very much..

Hot Actress Pictures

Villager said...

Thanks for taking time to share your review. I haven't seen the movie yet ... although it seems that every Black women in my universe has seen it. Yours is the most in-depth review I've heard or read.

I guess I'll wait for it to come to a Netflix queue near me!

peace, Villager

Sergio said...

You can read mine and tambay reviews for the film on Shadow And Act and we bascially both felt the same way. It wasn't nearly as bad as we were afraid it was going to be. In fact we think it's maybe Perry's best work.

HOWEVER keep in mind that we're grading him on a "curve". In other words, Perry's best is another dirctor's just mediocre.

Brandi said...

You echoed my sentiments EXACTLY! Where was the joy? What the hell were they talking about at times? When will this sadness be over?
Going back and forth from the poem to contemporary language was most definitely jarring and at times just didn't seem plausible.

I truly wanted to celebrate this movie but there were only moments that I enjoyed, not the film as a whole.

I agree with Ladyglen though, at least it employed a nice handful of black actors!

Rum Punch said...

Dead @ "How long is this movie?" That was my aunt who kept asking me, "what time is it? How much longer?" I don't know. I didn't hate it. But I didn't love it. I think that's my biggest issue, that with such great material to work with, I still came out like, "eh." What does it say when people are like, "it was ok." Or, "I was surprised! It was better than I thought it would be."

Black Geisha said...

Thank you for this review! (and all of your recent posts). I have really missed your blog. You know they're not going to play this movie in Japan any time soon (but then again, they were playing "Precious" a couple months ago) either way, at least now I know I'm not missing out on too much.

IntrospectiveGoddess said...

I will just say that this review was extremely well written, also I read Thembi's review and you guys pretty much are on the same page, your review however was much more in depth and I appreciate this part...

The meaning of "Colored Girls" is to give hope and good cheer, to let the Black women know that everything we need in this life, and any other life, is already inside of us. To let us know that as long as we support one another is sisterhood, in creativity, in our awesome womaness, it doesn't matter what a man does, or a whole race, or the whole world. We have to, and can, support and hold each other up

It made me feel all warm and tingly inside *smile*

justjudith said...

thanks for the review. but i just can't bring myself to go to the theater for a tp movie. i will rent it tho!

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully written review, IW. I am actually intrigued about this film, but I too cannot bring myself to the theater for a TP flick. Still, I will Netflix it the first chance I get.

I might even read Shange's book until then, but I'm not sure if by doing so, I would be less able to judge Perry's film on its own merits.

Googlover/keishua said...

I remember being uplifted from the play, too. There were sad parts but I did not think it was a sob story. That is unfortunate because I think it was suppose to be empowering. I think the movie firs the Perry formula. His Bw rarely have agency. I have been waffling on whether to see it and more and more I am not inclined.