DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FOR COLORED GIRLS (director/writer: Tyler Perry; screenwriter: based on the stage play; For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange; cinematographer: Alexander Gruszynski; editor: Maysie Hay; music: Aaron Zigman; cast: Janet Jackson (Jo/Red), Loretta Devine (Juanita/Green), Michael Ealy (Beau Willie), Kimberly Elise (Crystal/Brown), Omari Hardwick (Carl), Hill Harper (Donald), Thandie Newton (Tangie/Orange), Phylicia Rashad (Gilda), Anika Noni Rose (Yasmine/Yellow), Tessa Thompson (Nyla/Purple), Kerry Washington (Kelly/Blue), Whoopi Goldberg (Tangie's Mom); Runtime: 134; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Tyler Perry/Paul Hall/Roger M. Bobb; Lionsgate; 2010)

 
"A slice-of-life soap opera on what it's like to be a black woman in America."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The playwright and poet Ntozake Shange's 1975 Obie-winning stage play is the basis for director-writer Tyler Perry's ("Meet the Browns"/"Daddy's Little Girl"/"Madea Goes to Jail") pic about varied but stereotyped African-American women seeking solidarity. In the play and the movie, every women character has her own color of the rainbow. The pic, filled with sentimentality and surface impressions, gives us a slice-of-life soap opera on what it's like to be a black woman in America. But the intense lyrical play is difficult to adapt to film and Perry, though earnest in trying to get it right, can't do much with it except keep it shrill, preachy, soapy and entangled with too many undeveloped characters.

The play is a blend of monologue and dance, that evokes a strong call for black feminism. Its inter-meshing story, with so many disparate voices of women, mostly tenants in a Harlem five-story walk-up brownstone, crying out for attention to their plight and whose voices are meant to unite all the black women into one voice, never reaches fruition and clumsily drowns out Shange's urgent intention of letting us hear her interpretations on how a black girl sings her song.

Some of the more interesting characters include Crystal (Kimberly Elise), the subservient assistant to a frigid aloof high-powered magazine editor (Janet Jackson) and the long-suffering tender mother of two sweet children, who is saddled living with an unstable abusive boyfriend (Michael Ealy) from childhood--a war veteran who is damaged goods from his military hitch. Crystal's next door neighbor is a well-meaning nosy woman (Phylicia Rashad), who worries about Crystal's mistreated toddlers and reports the probable child abuse to Social Welfare--who send a well-meaning social worker (Kerry Washington) to investigate. Across the hall lives the sexually permissive knock-out bartender Tangie (Thandie Newton), working in an upscale cocktail lounge, who is an emotionally screwed-up tramp trying to relieve her pain from childhood abuse by sleeping with many different men. In the apartment below Tangie lives her religious cult member mother (Whoopi Goldberg) and her younger college-bound sister (Tessa Thompson), who hides her pregnancy from mom but can't fool her worldly and hateful sister.

The harrowing pic, filled with unpleasantness such as a back-alley abortion, abuse, HIV chatter, rape and problems over money, never became music to my ears. But the pic has been generally well-received by a black audience and not that well-received by a white audience, which might tell us more about the racial divide in the country as well as about the multi-cultured country's divide in taste.

Perry, the most successful commercial black filmmaker ever, doesn't seem discouraged that he can't reach a wider audience.

REVIEWED ON 12/14/2010       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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