Saturday, February 12, 2011

For Colored Girls: Grade B


For Colored Girls (2010)

Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Tessa Thompson; Writer and Director Tyler Perry.

These are vignettes from the lives of nine black women living in New York. Some of the lives intersect as the movie develops. There is not much dramatic tension, either in each life-story, or overall in the movie; it is strictly a “slice of life” approach. The stories are loose representations of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 set of poems and dances, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. The original had only seven characters, whereas this movie has nine, making the movie confusing and hard to keep track of. Passages of Shange’s work are read by actors in several scenes and their lyrical beauty leaps out at you. It is a harsh transition back to Perry’s mundane script after those segments.

Overall, the message of the movie is simple: Men (black men anyway) are immature, lying, cheating, disease-ridden, alcoholic, thieving rapists who want only one thing. They smile and sweet talk women while betraying them, murdering their children, ruining their lives. Black women, on the other hand, are gentle, sensitive, caring souls who seek love and understanding, and tragically, that need is so great it causes them to spread their legs when they shouldn’t, and blindly trust their lives to the aforementioned male ratbastards. The thematic content of the movie is so exaggerated that it verges on tragicomedy despite all the maudlin tears. And at well over two hours, repetition soon becomes boring.

But you should watch the movie anyway. Why? For the stunning acting. Most of these women give performances of Shakespearean proportions. Thandi Newton, Kerry Washington, and Kimberly Elise – wow! It’s acting like you haven’t seen in one place before. Janet Jackson acquits herself, but she’s had so much bizarre cosmetic surgery that she looks like Michael, and that’s all I could think about. Whoopi is the weakest character but she had to be included because of her role in The Color Purple. Kudos go to Perry’s directing and writing. I did not know he had this kind of thing in him, judging from his other broad, farcical, slapstick movies. This was a revelation in that regard. Good cinematography, good music, tight editing. Despite the melodrama, it’s worth seeing.

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