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  • Writer's pictureKandace Branch

Movie Review: "The Color Purple" - A Bold New Take Indeed

The Color Purple Movie Poster

First released in 1985, The Color Purple became a cultural classic within many homes. Despite the heavy topics of the film, The Color Purple is my mother and I’s comfort movie. Lines from the film come up in normal conversation regularly. I hold the film so dear to my heart that I was apprehensive going into the screening of the latest screen adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel. While it is a good film, I will say that my apprehensions were not put to ease because the new film is a “bold new take” indeed! 

The movie budgets of the eighties can’t compare to today’s movie budget. The new film is visually stunning. The cinematography, along with the costuming, was definitely the highlight for me. The cinematography does an excellent job of showcasing many of the emotions that are left unsaid. There is something so magical about being transported to a particular time period in just two hours and twenty-one minutes. 

The Color Purple is definitely not a story of smiles and rainbows, but somehow, over the years, we have found joy in revisiting the story and the film. The new film does a better job of including more moments of comedy, which offers some balance throughout the film. In doing so, it alleviates the viewers from really sitting with the heavy topics of incest and sexual assault. With its PG-13 rating, the new film finds creative ways to address these topics without explicitly stating them.

The cast ensemble was one of the things I was most excited about. Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, Haile Bailey, H.E.R. and Corey Hawkins. The list of phenomenal talent was endless. However, I am still processing many of the casting choices. Fantasia seemed like a good fit because she played Celie when the play was on Broadway. Fantasia did an awesome job of portraying the meek nature of Celie, but I really wanted the powerhouse vocals that I am used to hearing, and I didn’t get that from Celie’s defining solo, “I’m Here”. On the other hand, Taraji’s vocals surprised me. Viewers will get to experience Taraji singing, which is something we have not really seen from her before. I know that there is only so much you can do within the two-hour film, but H.E.R.’s voice was also underutilized. You can’t just leave that talent off the table! 

The stand-out star in this film is Danielle Brooks. She should be nominated and hopefully win big this awards season. She absolutely fulfilled and, dare I say, exceeded her predecessor, Oprah Winfrey when bringing Sofia to life. Sofia is known worldwide for being a fiery, take-no-mess character that we all know had to fight all her life. Brooks delivers that side of Sofia while also showing us that Sofia can be soft and loving, which shows the nuances within Black womanhood. We can be powerful while also being gentle. 

The story focuses heavily on the women's experiences, but the men in the film bring forth an additional vantage point that I think viewers will find interesting. Although only in the film for a brief moment, Deon Cole, who plays Celie and Nettie’s father, delivers a performance that is so different from anything we have ever seen from him. It took me a minute to even realize that it was even him. Corey Hawkins also breathed new life into the portrayal of Harpo by giving him a bit more sophistication that we don’t see in previous portrayals. Danny Glover embodied Albert ‘Mister’ Johnson but move over because Colman Domingo delivered. There were countless times that I jumped in the film just from the power of his voice. In this new storytelling, we see Mister trying to rectify his relationship with Celie by doing various acts of service. This could be seen as a bit problematic, seeing an abuser getting some redemption and sympathy, but nonetheless, Domingo deserves his flowers. 

My biggest gripe with the new film is that many key moments in the 1985 film were missing from this current adaptation. Celie’s narration, which helped move the story along and tied the novel to the film, is missing. Those who read the book know that Celie is writing to God. Through Celie’s narration in the 1985 film, viewers get an understanding of Celie trying to navigate the tension with religion. In the new film, there is a constant questioning of God that feels as though it’s just a floating question ungrounded. It is as though the adaptations are straying further and further away from Walker’s original writings. Nettie teaching Celie how to read is also one of my favorite scenes in the 1985 film and offers the context that is necessary for understanding the importance of letter writing between Nettie and Celie. However, in the new film, we don’t get that which I truly missed.  “You sho’ is ugly” is one of the standout lines in the previous film, but it is left to viewer interpretation based on Taraji P. Henson’s facial expression. Additionally, Shug Avery’s return to her father’s church was such a heartfelt moment in the original film that falls extremely short, and even a bit misplaced, in the current adaptation. But don’t worry, I’m sure your other favorites have made the film.

My Rating

The bold new take is to help viewers like myself disassociate this new version from the previous film. Trust me, it is really hard because I’m sure you are connected to the original film just like I am. If you go into the new film with completely fresh eyes, you will be rewarded with a great viewing experience. The key takeaway is that it is the same story but not the same film. Overall, I would rate the movie an 8/10. For the most part, I enjoyed it, but I will never not ride for the original. The Color Purple hits theaters on Christmas Day!

Rotten Tomatoes Current Score: 88%

THAheadline Score (THAscore): 8/10


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