For Colored Girls

16 Nov

Title: For Colored Girls
Year:
2010
Director:
Tyler Perry
Writer:
Tyler Perry, adapting from the play by Ntozake Shange
Starring:
Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson, Macy Gray
MPAA Rating:
R, some disturbing violence including a rape, sexual content and language
Runtime:
134 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
4.0
Rotten Tomatoes:
33%

 

This is the very first R-rated Tyler Perry film, and is by far his most serious effort to date. And For Colored Girls is a film that, at first, I was very undecided upon, but then I found myself liking it quite a bit. On the one side the cast is seriously top-notch, all very powerful ladies giving very good performances, and you can tell Mr. Perry was really passionate about the source material and the story he had to tell, but, on the other side, as usually happens with Mr. Perry, this one ends up going into way-too-melodramatic territory a fair bit, and those overtones, and the monologues the characters give that are suited only for the play, just end up hurting the film.

Tyler Perry, love him or hate him, is a very special filmmaker because he really knows how to appeal to his target audience. Seriously, no matter how his films are received critically, and there have been some that have taken a beating, they always perform well at the box office, scoring really consistent opening weekend numbers north of $20 million no matter what, and that’s because his audience loves him and they are very loyal to his brand. With For Colored Girls, the adaptation of the 1975 Tony Award-nominated play which had the much longer title of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf Mr. Perry makes a very different film, but I have a feeling that his target demographic, mostly African Americans and mostly women within that demo, will still enjoy it quite a bit.

I will never attempt to explain why Mr. Perry’s audience is made in its majority of African American women, it may have to do with him seriously knowing how to get to them, maybe they like the huge melodrama of his dramatic films, the crude-ish humor of his comedies, and how he can switch the tonality of his films in one feel swoop. I don’t know. And as I said, I will never attempt to explain it because I’m a nineteen year-old male white teenager and would probably have no clue of what I’m talking about when referring to his specific appeal, but I do find it fascinating that we have a filmmaker in our times that’s so in sync with this audience, that’s why I respect the guy so much.

The core schtick of Mr. Perry’s films is intact here, this is all very melodramatic, full of very powerful women that will aim for your tears like crazy. And this is, I would say, the best film he’s made to date. This was a difficult film to make because of the source material which was tough to handle properly, but I did really like For Colored Girls much more than the one’s he’s made in the past, especially because the huge cast he aligned for this one performed to his beat like the best trained musicians.

The play on which this is based is unique, it has poems and music and movement and is just a very distinct experience. It centers on a group of people that have been classified by colors by the author, who then proceeds to show them all in some very dark periods of life some women may go through. The topics the film touches upon are indeed very dark, and seriously get to you, you don’t need to be a part of Mr. Perry’s target audience to feel that, and that’s why I found For Colored Girls effective, these are some very serious emotions Mr. Perry has to film, and the cast he got to help him tell these stories is just amazing.

There are some famous names here, Janet Jackson and Whoopi Golberg are here, and they are both fine, same goes for Thandie Newton, who I found to be even better. But the real star of For Colored Girls, to me, was a more unknown name, I’m talking about Kimberly Elise. I won’t talk about Ms. Elise’s character, Crystal, nor about what her dark story is, but trust me, it’s a very affecting story that will touch you no matter what. It’s seriously riveting how she plays Crystal, and she gets the MVP trophy in this really good cast from me.

Mr. Perry I thought ultimately handled the play really well. He added a couple of characters to the story, and was very good at putting new stuff in to make his characters richer while still clearly showing his love for the source material. You do get lost at times by the language that comes straight from the play, which at times makes the film look like a taped performance, and the transition it makes into Mr. Perry trademark melodrama, that I thought could have been done better since stylized prose from the play did sometimes get in the way. The thing is that the material is just damn hard to film, when I first heard of this adaptation I had no idea how anyone would pull it off, when I heard Mr. Perry was going to do it my doubts only multiplied, but, while not a perfect effort, I do give him a huge amount of kudos since the essence of the play was kept intact, and without damaging that essence he made this film accessible, maybe not as accessible as his Madea comedies, but much more accessible than I was initially thinking it was going to be.

Plus, I mean just look at this cast. These are all great performers giving great performances because, even though when mixed with the straight-out film drama it they don’t work as well, the soliloquies as stand-alone performances are very well done by these actresses. That’s the thing, I’m not grading this one any higher because I don’t think one could make a film out of this material and get it graded any higher by my own personal tastes and standards. This is just a difficult play to handle, but for what it’s worth, Mr. Perry I think did the best of it, and in the process, as I said, crafted the best film he’s done to date.

Grade: B

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