Saturday, 14 May 2011

Film Review: For Colored Girls

Rating: 7/10 - Very Good

This movie reminds me of a scenario planner’s comment on the 1994 elections – both black men and women support the end of racism, but black women support the end of sexism. The men in For Colored Girls don’t get a chance to develop much beyond the role of abuser, antagonist, rapist, murderer, liar, cheat and betrayer. Yet, there is an underlying realism about this film that screams through every vignette that reminds the viewer that women still battle to find their own voice, separate and independent from the men they encounter. And even if they succeed in finding that authenticity, they still find themselves so defined.

Director: Tyler Perry. Screenplay: Tyler Perry, Ntozake Shange. Producers: Paul Hall, Ntzingha Stewart and Tyler Perry. Starring: Kimberley Elise, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Whoopi Goldberg and Loretta Devine. Studio: Lionsgate. Age Restriction: 16SLV. Running Time: 133 Minutes
The movie is based on Ntozake Shange's play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf." Unlike the original play which featured only 7 women known by colors performing the collection of 20 poems, the movie has given each of the 20 characters names. The poems deal with issues impacting women. Yes it's a commentary on coloured women, but it has as much resonance for all women, the world over.

As a director, Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) has a deep compassion for his subject. The women in this movie are raw studies of female emotion, in particular female suffering. He is both compassionate and relentless as he uncovers the characters and lays their vulnerabilities bare for the audience. The movie does not let up, does not soften, and the brutal horror of rape, abortion, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional anguish are offered up as is – part of what women deal with.

The dialogue weaves the poems of the original play in and out. It’s powerful. It gives the women voice, it gives them strength. Loretta Devine’s lines of not letting a man walk off ‘with my stuff’, or Thandie Newton’s admissions of childhood abuse overlapped with her cult-worshipping mother’s recognition of her in her daughter, are female anthems that strike a note of understanding, if not hope.

The cast is outstanding. Janet Jackson plays a Devils Wears Prada fashion editor type with a twist, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine and Phylicia Rashaad all take something bleak and make it survivable. There is also a cameo by Macy Gray that is downright chilling.

At 133 minutes, it’s a tad too long, and the continuing unfurling of one drama after another can get overwhelming. One young lady in the same theatre as me shook herself off after the final credits rolled. For women, this is a stark reminder of the daily challenges we face. Maybe in technicolour it can feel too much like real life.

Verdict: Highly recommended.

For Colored Girls is out in cinemas now.

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