Review: For Colored Girls

It’s always difficult translating a message from one medium to another. As Marshall McLuhan once put it, “the medium is the message” and will influence how people perceive the message that they are receiving. This would explain why film adaptations are rarely ever as good as the original source material, and why ‘For Colored Girls’ is just a good film, that almost reached the potential to be great.

Written and directed by Tyler Perry, ‘For Colored Girls’ is an adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s critically acclaimed play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf”. The original play features a collection of 20 choreo-poems read by seven different women, each represented by a color. In the film, Perry characterizes each poem by naming 20 different characters, each dealing with issues that women (not just of color) face on a daily basis.

For starters, compared to his previous work ‘For Colored Girls’ is by far Perry’s best film to date thanks to an ensemble cast that features the crème de la crème of black actresses.  Outstanding performances by Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, Tessa Thompson, Janet Jackson and Loretta Devine are what drive this film, and make it such a success.   Standouts include Newton and Rose, who both give captivating and tear inducing performances; Rose especially surprises with her soliloquy, delivering it with such passion and pain that you can’t help but shed a tear.  Newton also gives an awards caliber performance as a woman who substitutes love for sex and doesn’t care about anyone, especially her crazy mother portrayed by Goldberg, who is finally back where she belongs—in front of a camera and not behind a desk sharing her “view” with four annoying ladies.  Elise also shines in a role that’s one note, but she plays it to perfection because she’s done it so many times before. Washington gets the shortest end of the stick as her character isn’t given much to work with, and what she has to work with is very difficult for audiences to translate. Her prose comes out of nowhere, which becomes one of the few flaws of this film.

Although this may be Perry’s best, the writing and direction keep this film from being extraordinary.  While his attempt to bring Shange’s words to life is very admirable, the juxtaposition of Shange’s poems and Perry’s dialogue just don’t flow, making it difficult for the audience to really connect with each character. This goes back to the medium being the message; while a collection of choreo-poems would be utter perfection on stage, when they’re on a big screen and mixed with ‘around the way’ dialogue, the perception is very different.  Luckily for Perry, he had an exceptional cast to bring life to not only Shange’s work, but his words as well and this is why ‘For Colored Girls’ is a film that must be seen.  The story, in any medium, carries a powerful message that’s not just for colored girls but for girls everywhere who have considered suicide (among other things) when the rainbow is enough.

My Grade: 7.5/10

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One Response to “Review: For Colored Girls”

  1. 1) love the new redesign on the site! 2) i totally agree with you about the dialogue. it left too much of the poetic jargon in the film, which worked for the play and the poem but needs to be better finessed for film auiences. i thought anika noni rose and kimberly elise really tore it up in this movie. they were fantastic. the performances outweighed the direction and writing flaws from Tyler.

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