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The Color Purple movie review: A colorful musical but not as powerful as Spielberg’s version

Updated on: 08 March,2024 01:37 PM IST  |  Los Angeles
Johnson Thomas |

This film sticks closer to the stage/ Broadway version and is a musical drama with plenty of song and dance.

The Color Purple movie review: A colorful musical but not as powerful as Spielberg’s version

The Color Purple movie review

Film: The Color purple
Cast: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, Halle Bailey, Colman Domingo
Director: Blitz Bazawule
Rating: 3/5
Runtime: 141 min

For those who have seen Steven Spielberg’s version with Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey essaying the main characters of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel, this one is sure to seem pale in comparison. This film sticks closer to the stage/ Broadway version and is a musical drama with plenty of song and dance about.

It’s now forty-one years since the book was published and some time since the movie and the Broadway version came and went, so it would suffice to say that we were all expecting something new from this version. This is a musical unlike Speilberg’s version and therefore it becomes much more difficult for the characters to stay with you after the movie is done. Nevertheless, the cast, director and technical team do a bang on job to make this entertaining and vivid. Blitz Bazawule and scriptwriter Marcus Gardley smartly base this film on the musical, the novel, and the original film.

The film opens in 1909, on the Georgia coast, and we see a deep bond existing between two oppressed sisters, a young Celie (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi) and her sister Nettie (Halle Bailey). The two are forcefully separated when Celie is forced to marry a widower with several children, Mister( Colman Domingo). Her life becomes an ever deepening misery with constant physical and mental abuse from her frustrated husband - much more so because she has no hopes of connecting with her beloved sister again.

Fantasia Barrino, the actress who played Celie on Broadway, assumes the role of an adult Celie, and is a powerhouse presence in this movie. This movie teems with musical performances. Danielle Brooks as Sophia, wife of Mister’s son Harpo, Taraji P Henson as singer Shug Avery, David Allen Grier as Reverend Avery, Shug's estranged dad,  Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor appearing in flashbacks as Celie’s Mama, Elizabeth Marvel as the vengeful, racist wife of the Mayor, Oscar winner 87 year old Lou Gossett Jr as Mister’s father,  musician H. E. R. as Squeak, Harpo's girlfriend, Jon Batiste as Grady Shug’s fashionable husband, and Ciara as grown-up Nettie - all leave their mark too.  

The narrative covers the period from 1907 through to 1945 and we get to see how each character gains strength from their experience and becomes much more with it. While the songs are not exactly memorable, they have punch. Taraji B Henson’s rousing “Push da Button”, Danielle Brooks' adamant “Hell No” and  Fantasia Barrino’s “I'm Here” encapsulate her resilience and perseverance, stand-out in particular.

This is an entertaining new adaptation of The Color Purple, visually intriguing because of its gorgeous production design, assured helming and distinctive performances. Director Blitz Bazawule manages to lend a tone and setting that is alluring enough and accompanied by some strongly appealing cinematography, this film makes for a colorful, enticing experience.

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