A few words about For Colored Girls (UH OH! Get ready…..)
So reviews are starting to come out about Tyler Perry’s film version of Ntzoke Shange’s choreopoem, For Colored Girls, and I might as well throw in my few cents into the mix. Some of our readers are anxious to hear what I’m going to say since… well… I’m definitely not known for holding back on my opinions, to say the least. So let me just be blunt and say that… I liked it. HUH? Say that again. I liked it. In fact I’ll go even farther to say that For Colored Girls is the best thing Perry has done to date.
I know, I know, I’m as shocked as you. This is probably the end of days. The coming of the apocalypse. Me, of all people, actually likes a Tyler Perry film and For Colored Girls on top of that, with its man bashing (I’ll get to that in a minute). But like I said earlier this week on S & A, anything “is possible in this best of all possible worlds” (to quote Leonard Bernstein’s musical Candide) and here most certainly is proof.
Now I know that it may not be saying much to say this is Perry’s best film, considering the typical low quality, ramshackle work of his previous films. But honestly if his name wasn’t on the credits, I would have sworn someone else directed this film. That’s how much he stepped up his game on this film. It helps tremendously that he uses a different cinematographer for the first time than the hack he’s used on all his earlier movies. The film simply looks better than his previous films. But also I know for a fact that Shange had final script approval and Perry kept rewriting the script to satisfy her. That tells me that Perry really did respect the original source material, and knew he had to deliver this time, or else he would have been ridden out of town on a rail. He also takes full credit for the screenplay which means he totally rewrote Nzingha Stewart’s original screenplay. (I would love now to read her version).
First of all, the thing that struck me the most is that there are things in this film that he’s never done before in any of his previous movies, mainly subtlety and nuance. Gone is the bombast, the heavy handiness, the over-the-top acting, the lame comedy, the sermons, the black 70′s sit-com approach with its flat, over lit cinematography. And the film is even more cinematic than his usual stagy approach. He even goes for some cross cutting between scenes for dramatic effect.
Story-wise, you can argue that it is thin plot wise. He concocts a story in which the women in the film are either living in the same apartment building or working for one of them. As a result, it does tend to drag on during the last third of the film (which runs a solid two hours). You can see Perry trying to come up with new plot twists in order to keep the story going. And the transitions from dialogue to Shange’s poetry is rather mixed. Sometimes it’s seamless and other times it’s just plain clumsy especially during the beginning of the film. You can hear the gears shifting like a old car.
And yes, all you male readers out there. I have to warn you, just as you suspected, it is something of a black man’s bashing festival. With the exception of Hill Harper’s character, the rest are pretty much scum. (But you knew that didn’t you?) But Perry clearly tries to give the men some depth and understanding, though in his limited way, trying to show their anguish and confusion to explain why they are what they are.
And the women don’t get off the hook so easily either. A few of them make horrible decisions which they wind up paying for. It’s not going to make some women happy who want to stick to the image of women being helpless victims set upon by evil men. Responsibility is a two way street. And I have to mention that it’s pretty obvious, at least to me, that there are sequences in the film in which Perry, is, in some way, trying to work out his own confused sexual identity issues. (Hey don’t jump on me. Perry made that pretty clear himself in that Oprah interview this week that he’s got issues)
Performance-wise, everyone is damn solid. Some, of course, stand out because their characters are more vividly written. It’s obvious that they’re going for Oscar nominations. As for a best picture or director that’s right now unlikely. Unless they’re really pushed to find a 10th picture candidate. But I can practically guarantee you that Thandie Newton is going to get one for Best Supporting actress, since her part is the showiest. (And also since she herself is about to start a nationwide PR tour for the film, meaning that Lionsgate thinks she has a genuine shot). Janet Jackson and Kimberly Elise are also real two stand outs, since their characters go through the most dramatic arcs, but there isn’t a weak link in the bunch and it takes skill as a director to give everyone their due.
Now does this means that Perry is all of a sudden a great director? Not hardly. He needs to make a couple more good films, and even then that’s not enough. What’s even worse is that it is depressing that his next film Madea’s Big Happy Family means he’s going back to the same ol’ same ol’. But clearly when he wants to, and puts his mind to it, he can deliver.
I’m sure many of you will want to express your opinions of the film when it comes out, and we will definitely provide you with a forum for that. Like Previous it’s certain to be a film that’s going to divide people. But for now I’ve spoke my peace. Take it for what you will.
39 comments to A few words about For Colored Girls (UH OH! Get ready…..)
View in: Mobile | Standard