‘For Colored Girl’ film review

Nov 08, 2010 @ 12:37 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 12 Comments

“& this is for girls who have considered suicide but are movin to the ends of their own rainbows“-Lady in Brown

I have been anticipating the film release of ‘For Colored Girls’ since I heard the announcement. I was elated that Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf was going to be introduced to a new generation of women who might not have ever discovered this piece of Black literature on their own. Although I was happy the choreopoem was going to be made into a film, I had dire concerns and apprehensions because Tyler Perry was involved. Tyler Perry was not adding his name to a finished product like he and Oprah did for the film Precious he was going to be producing and directing the film. I studied the choreopoem in college and I just remember reading it and seeing myself and my fellow sisters in the stories in the play. Shange wrote about date rape, abortion, domestic violence, and dysfunctional love all themes that every woman in my immediate circle including myself has dealt with in some form or another.

Finally November 5th came along and I saw the film. The film was everything I expected  a Tyler Perry production to be. Everything about the film screamed Tyler Perry instead of feminism. The one thing I  loved and appreciated about Shange’s choreopoem is the fact that the play is told by seven women who are represented not by name, but by colors which in doing so these seven women represent all women. Each of the women suffers from a different aspect of oppression, but by not giving them a name their story belonged to every woman. Therefore by Tyler Perry taking universal feminist issues and turning them into characters the universal message I believe gets lost in translation. I hated the fact that Tyler Perry took so much creative license with the work. Whoopi Goldberg’s character doesn’t exist in the original work and I really do not see the purpose her character played in the overall theme and telling of the movie. Perry has an obsession with preaching in his movies and inserting religion. Which in theory isn’t a bad thing, but Tyler Perry doesn’t understand the art of subtle storytelling and tends to turn everything into a gross exaggeration. Whoopi Goldberg’s character was the stereotypical overly religious prude who comes off asexual and emotionally detached from the present world she lives in because she is so “heavenly minded.” I hated Whoopi’s character because her character wasn’t allowed to claim her power as a woman and Shange’s chorepoem is all about women finding their own inner strength and moving to ends of their rainbow where there is hope. I don’t know if Tyler Perry knows that a woman can be a Christian and still have a libido one doesn’t have to cancel out the other. Every woman in the film finds the strength to rise and overcome except Whoopi’s character and I don’t like the message that is being conveyed about women of faith. Another faulty character depiction that I found problematic was Thandie Newton’s character who I feel Tyler Perry dug up the tragic mulatto stereotype and played it up to the 20th degree. Why must the bi-racial Black woman always be painted as being downtrodden and miserable? I refuse to believe that is the norm. Although in the choreopoem Thandie Newton’s character is promiscuous I did not find her to be pathetic in the choreopoem, but Thandie Newton’s character in the film appeared to be very pathetic which plays into Tyler Perry’s preaching and demonization of women’s sexuality which is prevalent in all of his movies. Perry being a man who subscribes to patriarchy painted her the way society paints all women who own their sexuality, he painted her like a vapid soul-less creature who is the victim of her sexuality rather than in control of it. Perry then gives Thandie Newton’s character a little sister who has a back alley abortion which I found very hard to believe that in a movie set up in a modern world a woman would have a back alley abortion when she is not living in an under developed country. That part of the choreopoem did not translate well into modernity. Now to the character of Jo played by Janet Jackson’s character to me seemed like Tyler Perry reprised Janet Jackson’s role as Patricia from  the movie “Why did I get married” and combined her with Miranda Priesly the character from the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada.” Once again Perry uses the stereotypical strong Black woman who emasculates her man and terrorizes the people in her path. I find this particular stereotype very annoying  because the media is so obsessed with vilifying the successful Black woman as a train wreak in heels who sabotages her own life because she dominates in her career and doesn’t know how to “let a man be a man” when she comes home. I am so tired of that trope and it needs to be buried. Then Perry ups the ante by giving Jo a down low husband, why? Here we go with the “down low boogey man” which I wrote a blog about bearing the same title. Every gay or bi-sexual man is not dying or living with HIV/AIDS. Homophobia is already a serious issue within the Black community why would Tyler Perry further sensationalize that issue? These types of stereotypical portrayals does nothing to smooth over the rising tensions between Black men and Black women if anything it fuels the anger and the animosity that is already so visceral.

I will commend Tyler Perry for using a lot of the original words of Shange, but I did not like the way Shange’s words seemed to be haphazardly  sprinkled throughout the movie. Often times Shange’s words seemed ill placed within the film. Tyler Perry’s voice and Shange’s voice did not blend seamlessly at all. Even if you do not know the words of the choreopoem  practically verbatim like I do you can definitely tell the shift in consciousness and voice within the characters. It was very weird hearing modern day Blacks use the term “colored” although this movie has definitely put that word back en vogue again. I applaud Perry for helping Shange bring her work to a wider audience, but I am not sure if Tyler Perry’s faithful viewing audience is well equipped to digest the magnitude and depths of Shange’s masterpiece.

For Colored Girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf is about women claiming themselves and realizing that they’re already enough and that they don’t have to go outside themselves to find the strength and love that is already running through their veins. The choreopoem is about being comfortable in your skin and accessing your power. I don’t think Tyler Perry is comfortable in his own skin nor  does he understand the beautiful magical complexities of women and therefore the film suffered because of it. Based on what I have read on facebook/twitter people love the film, the acting was superb in the film, but I think the movie was mediocre and as people of color we shouldn’t settle for less than stellar portrayals of ourselves.

What did you think of the film?

Categories: Mind Over Chatter

12 Responses to “ ‘For Colored Girl’ film review ”

  1. I felt that the film was a good support of the Shange’s work and exposed her art to a larger audience and for that I applaude Perry. Within our course reading Shange’s piece we were prepared to analyze with an astute eye and a keen perspective.I agree with you Miss Fem.(If I may)I did not enjoy Perry assuming poetic licence with one of my favorite readings. The film did not allow personal growth for me as the choreopoem did. As always I enjoyed your blog!

  2. I did not hate this movie as much as I thought would (and secretly wanted too). Tyler Perry is very much disliked in my household, but I wanted to see this movie. I read For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. a long long time ago, so I honestly didn’t remember most of it. I went into the movie just trying to see it as its own independent project since I couldn’t fairly compare the two. While I didn’t get wrapped up too emotionally into the story, there were times when I found myself holding my breath because what was on the screen was pretty intense.

    As much as I love Whoopi Goldberg and wished she would do more acting, her character seemed so out of place. There were times when she was on screen where I could almost hear her saying “what the heck am I doing in this movie.” I do agree that the back alley abortion does seem out of place in the USA today, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if there are still women out there who go that route if they absolutely needed to.

    As for Janet Jackson, she was a distraction. Every time she was on screen all I could think is “why is Michael Jackson in this movie.” She looked so much like her brother that I could not concentrate. The fact that she’s not a great actress didn’t help either. That whole situation with her husband was so unnecessary and just continues to perpetuate the myth of the “evil DL man.” Someone in my theater even shouted out “fag,” when her husband was on screen. I completely agree with you that many of Perry’s regular audience won’t grasp the serious nature of the work. There were many people in my theater who were laughing at completely inappropriate times. Many probably won’t even bother to read the original choreopoem by Shange.

    I now need to re-read Ntozake Shange’s work again so I can critically compare the two.

    – Strange ((^_~))

  3. ..”i want you to know this waz an experiment to see how selfsih i cd be if i wd really carry on to snare a possible lover if i waz capable of debasin my self for the love of another if i cd stand not being wanted when i wanted to be wanted & i cannot so with no further assistance & no guidance from you i am ending this affair…”Lady in Red from the choreopoem “For colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf”

    This line definitely bleeds the hurt that is felt daily by ‘colored’ women… it cries out all the anguish bottled up aloud and spits the soot of reality in the Black woman’s face because it mirrors her life right before her (or need I say ‘Myself’) Shange is real and her art lives in our everyday. This epitomizes a classic piece because it is timeless and lives in a modern society where a simple change of vernacular would suffice in the change perspective. Black women LOVE hard and trust easy when we are in love, blinding ourselves to our own truths and reality and even knowingly we allow our own abuse and demise for the need adn want of love. In the end we end where we should have beganand that is loving our selves

  4. I personally liked the film. I thought it was a powerful piece of cinema that had good acting from all actors. I do agree that it wasn’t seamless when the characters were obvious reciting the poems from the book. But from the little I know of the book I don’t think that it would have translated very well if Tyler (or any director) would have used the book almost verbatim.

    I also think that people who love the book will be (or are) disappointed because they’re expecting the film to bring to life the book that they have pictured time & again whenever they read or re-read the book. Which I believe happens with most beloved books that are turned into films.

    Also, I’m not a hardcore Tyler Perry fan and actually knowing that he was going to do this movie was almost a reason for me to not see. But seeing the cast and knowing that they would bring their A game to the film made me want to see if opening weekend, which I try to never do with films because I don’t want to be bothered with opening weekend crowds.

    So kudos to you Mr. Perry and the cast of the film for doing what I believe is a good job at speaking about the various issues of the film.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nilaja A. Montgomery, L. Segu. L. Segu said: Today's post: http://thefeministgriote.com/2010/11/08/for-colored-girl-film-review/ my review of #forcoloredgirls […]

  6. BlackGirlWhoReads | November 8, 2010 3:25 pm

    I agree with your review on just about every individual point. In fact, my colleagues and I have discussed the film at length and came to many of the same conclusions that you did. We agreed that Whoopi Goldberg was unnecessary and that the back room abortion did not translate well. However, we all felt that it was a powerful film that stayed true to much of En-toh-zah-kee’s work. I do not TP changed the work to the point of it being unrecognizable. I believed he honored Shange in his interpretation of the text. TP chose a very difficult work to translate to the screen and he succeeded in his adaptation. Yes, I could feel where the voices switched but many viewers would not catch the subtle voice changes. The part that stuck out the most would be the end when Crystal/Lady in Brown says, “Shut up, bitch” because it was a little too harsh for that particular moment. Even though he did a lot of color-switching, I believe that many of his changes were necessary for the fluidity of the story. Fa-lish-uh Rashad acted her socks off as did Loretta Devine, my personal favorite. This movie will be purchased as soon as it comes out on DVD and will be collected to my Negronia movie collection.

    Great post, SoulSister

  7. MsPowerBitchPR | November 8, 2010 3:50 pm

    As always Well Written! Coming from a generation where unless you knew about this poem or studied in class or even had the opportunity to be apart of the play you wouldn’t know such a wonderful story. I do think that the movie was good of course it could have been way better in some aspects but I didn’t hate it. After having dialogues about the film I agree when you say that Tyler Perry does over due it, whether its with homosexuality, religion, a poor black woman he just doesn’t let it flow. I am glad that this newer generation can have a film to look at and grasp some idea of yes women of all shades do go through the same thing but there is a way to get through it. So for what it was I did enjoy the movie but would LOVE TO SEE IT ON BROADWAY!!!! Much Love!

  8. Where oh where shall i start? let’s start with the orignal piece of literature, which produced for us the overall theme of Feminism that we all share as women not just of Color. The movie which i do commend to an extent to me ostracized or limited the overall theme of feminism to focus on one particular Race which to me was never really indicated or emphasized in Shange’s orignal work. I understand that Perry was trying to appeal to a newer generation but in doing so he brutally recreated Shange’s intial view. He modernized this crafted piece of art and molded it into the norms of his themes. But none the less i was grateful that he incorporated orignal poems from the book.

  9. Well the best thing to me about the movie was the acting. I do not agree that the movie presented an accurate portrayal of the black female as it should, nor the homosexual male. In all honesty, I think Tyler Perry is gay and is trying to come out gradually. It was not a horrible movie, but it could have definitely been better.

  10. naomi's girl | November 9, 2010 3:13 pm

    I’m a fan of Tyler Perry, the marketing genius, not the filmmaker.

    For Colored Girls was far beyond his level of expertise. I agree that the abortion scenario was unrealistic in 2010. A run-down clinic would have been more believable.

    His handling of domestic violence and its dynamics was also unrealistic. Abusers typically resort to drastic measures like murder AFTER their victim leaves them or takes a drastic step, like filing a restraining order, not because she would not agree to marry him. He still had control, which is what the DV is about.

    The dialogue during that, and other scenes was inauthentic, atypical of how people actually speak. There was a noticeable lack of tension during that whole scene. No sense of urgency/stress with having to deal with her abusive man while having her boss waiting in the car. No impatience on the notoriously impatient Joanna, who is being made to wait after having to drive to her assistant’s apt. and has to go to an important meeting.

    I also agree that the Janet Jackson character too closely mimicked Meryl Streep’s Devil Loves Prada character. No originality. Plus, her reaction to the news that she was HIV+ was “too artsy.” A more explosive, emotional reaction would have worked better.

    And speaking of emotional, Anika Noni Rose’s character’s moving recitation of the poetry in the exam room should have occurred in the morgue when she viewed her rapist’s dead body. The weak little slap that she gave before she walked out dramatically was not visually effective at all.

    I think a director like Lee Daniels would have knocked this movie out of the park. He has a much stronger grasp of character development, dialogue, plot development, pacing, etc.

  11. Sooooooo…. The acting in this movie was OUTSTANDING! Except for Janet Jackson of course who’s appearance onscreen jarred me out of the storyline every time. Why and how she got top billing over Phyicia Rashad is beyond me. EVERYONE ELSE WAS EXCELLENT even the baby sister.

    I cannot for the life of me understand why there needed to be the AA Devil Wears Prada, green contacts, or a so-called down-low brother in the movie, period. The whole down-low theme is tired and I am tired of hearing about it. That is just TP being TP. His view of the world, as depicted on screen, is very limited. This film called for him to expand beyond his “usual” and I do not feel as though he did that. Whoopi’s character was well acted but very limited. Where did this broad sweeping demonization of Thandie Newton’s character come from? Whoopi’s character was unrelenting in Thandie’s destruction. This mother/daughter hatred is not new to TP’s work and if anything I want to know why he seems to be obsessed with disintegrating mother/daughter relationships (The Family That Prays, Family Reunion).

    I am angry that TP is the face/voice of AA females in film. And for that matter, can someone put me on some female AA directors/writers/producers? For Colored Girls could have been EPIC if, and only if, TP was able to let go of his usual film aesthetic. The work called for a non-traditional approach and TP fought tooth and nail to turn the film into just another production written, directed, produced and art directed by TP. It should have been a screen-adaptation of For Colored Girls… and if he wasn’t able to do it, that’s okay, it could have stayed a play. No one would have been upset.

    There were points in the movie where the acting literally left me breathless, this cast was a dream team, a stacked deck of awesomeness. I found myself rooting for the actors as individuals and not so much the characters. Thandie Newton shocked me, Kimberley Elise was amazing and Phylicia Rashad’s delivery of her monologue to Kimberley & Thandie’s character, YES MA’AM!!! Anika Noni-Rose and Kimberley Elise’s character had the most visual transformations and I appreciated how their character’s were portrayed.

    Although the group pow-wow at the end of the movie was supposedly some sort of resolution, there was no breathing room after each experience. There was an onslaught of pain and agony and then a arty with cake. It cheapened the depth of the women’s experiences. It was like, yeah that hurt but this cake will make it all better.

    I don’t like TP, I will go on record, and while I didn’t think the movie was great, I didn’t think it was Madea Goes To Jail either. I do however think that the acting saved the choppy dialogue and weaker storylines. I will give it a 6 of 10, 4 of which belong to the actors.

  12. Excellent review from the Feminist Griote. I left the film questioning, and the question on my mind was how could the on screen rape of a woman not elicit the same outrage or disgust that the “prospect” of a black man being gay or bisexual did. I’m still trying to figure that one out personally.

    The film portrayed black gay or bisexual men as vectors of HIV and that is truly unfortunate.

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