|Still from For Colored Girls|
Tyler Perry truly understands the heart of a Black Woman and furthermore, knows how to cater to her heart time and time again. His latest work For Colored Girls boasts a creme de la creme Ensemble Cast, which in most part needs no introduction. In addition to taking the directorial reins here, he also pens the screen adaptation of the Tony Award-nominated play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, by Ntozake Shange.
The story centers around the lives of eight Black women, each undergoing their own internal struggles with story lines that share equal weight and importance. Perry's Muse Kimberly Elise plays Crystal, the battered girlfriend of an alcoholic ex-solider Beau Willie (Michael Ealy). She also mothers his two children and is the Assistant of Janet Jackson's Jo, a no nonsense woman-in-charge who is an overachiever by trade, yet facing power struggles in her relationship with Trader husband Carl (Omari Hardwick); she suspects his infidelity. Thandie Newton plays Tangie, the promiscuous and sexually destructive older sister to gentle-spirited Nyla (Tessa Thompson); their mother is the highly-religious and volatile Alice (Whoopi Goldberg). Phylicia Rashad plays Gilda, a Building Manager who is an outsider looking-in at troubles the women in her building face. Charity Worker Juanita (Loretta Devine), Educator Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose) and Social Worker Kelly (Kerry Washington) each are integral to For Colored Girls' plot, but sit just outside the core of the story.
No one can deny the sheer talent of this outstanding cast. With that being said, this is an Actor's Movie, with the Cast being given chances to shine with meaty dialogue and Monologues. It is however for this reason also that the film is hindered by many moments which on-stage would work, but alas overly showy and melodramatic on-screen (yes, even by Perry's standards). Without affecting the integrity of Shange's original work, perhaps some more modifications could have been made to Perry's script to make the transitions from central story to Monologues more seamless.
Newton is the film's brightest star, excelling fully in the complexity required of her deeply-wounded character, delivering angst and tenderness with equal prowess. She carries the most hope of garnering an Oscar nomination in this talented bunch. Elise is simply wonderful, delivering restraint in the spirit of a woman who has for many years been silenced by violence. Rose as always is radiant, shining a much needed ray of light on the many sombre, heavy moments in the film even after her character is affected by Rape - one of the many weighty subjects For Colored Girls touches upon. Devine as always is deeply engaging in her whimsicality, never failing to bring a smile to my face. Quirky Macy Gray who is seen v. little in the film, is deliciously disturbing as an Alcoholic Abortionist. Despite not quite having the range some of the other Actresses here posses, Jackson also puts forth a career best with her icy delivery of a woman done wrong. Goldberg unfortunately is grossly underutilized in a one-dimensional role.
As is the case in many of Perry's films, the story lines are resolved in a Celebration of sorts, uniting principal characters together. Perhaps it may have been a little hasty on his part to expect us to believe these drastic transitions could occur after having been subjected to an overwhelming theme of sadness for much of the film. Regardless of its obvious logistical flaws, Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls delivers exactly what it promises - a visceral film-going experience which gives a voice to those who are not heard enough. The film opens this Friday, November 5, 2010 in wide release. Grade: B+