Written and Directed by Tyler Perry
Starring Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Whoopi Goldberg
Crystal: Part of me knows this is happening but part of me thinks I’m dreaming. Am I awake?
Up until seeing FOR COLORED GIRLS, I had never seen a Tyler Perry film. I’m not a fan of men in fat suits dressed up as women and I’m not really the intended demographic either for that matter. Fortunately, despite the title’s suggestion that this film is for a very specific group of people, its emotional impact should translate to anyone capable of feeling period. For while the tapestry of tragedy that Perry weaves may be about “colored girls” and should also give any “colored girl” who watches it something to take away from it, it also invites everyone else who sees it to see the world in shades they maybe never have.
FOR COLORED GIRLS is based on a 1975 stage play by Ntosake Shange called “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf”. In it, a cast of seven African-American women each represent a different color and the qualities that go along with it. They also each bring a different emotional plight to the plot, from abuse to rape to abortion. No, this is not a lighthearted film and the talented cast bare the weight of the material with proud shoulders. My personal favorite would be Kimberly Elise, whose abusive relationship leaves her beautiful face looking like a hollow, heartbroken shell. Perry added an eighth woman to his ensemble (perhaps for good luck) but keeps a key poetic element of the play in place, having each character fall into soliloquy at different intervals. They may all be “colored girls” but there is still a vast range of individuality amongst them and, while grouping together builds bonds between them, it also robs them a little of the painstakingly earned place they’ve made as people. Plus nobody talks like that; it completely stops the action.
Like the lives of the women on the screen, FOR COLORED GIRLS, is far from perfect. Perry has taken on an ambitious project and bits and pieces do manage to get away from him at times. Still, there are several other times when the film’s pace takes on such momentum that it plays like a marathon of hardship, with each woman as a runner, passing a baton of pain from one to the next. Like any race though, the runners lose their stride at times and goes on to find strength they didn’t know they had to make it to the end. For Perry, all his “colored girls” and those watching from the stands, it is an exalting finish that will leave many in tears.