Film Review: For Colored Girls

We are pleased to welcome a new contributor to Uptownflavor. Stephanie is pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia University and is originally from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. You can visit her blog at http://sdotchronicles.blogspot.com.


I needed to give this on-screen adaptation of the choreopoem by Ntozake Shange “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf“, some time to settle in before writing my own review.

In all fairness, I haven’t read the book, but I am very familiar with the work and the stage play. This puts me at both a disadvantage and advantage, I can give an unbiased view on the film as a stand-alone piece and I can also help you decipher the mixed reviews you have undoubtedly read in the media; but I can’t tell you if the film does the book justice, or if it has the same passion or purpose.

The movie was good, but was not the dazzling artistic endeavor I was expecting, or maybe…hoping for. I was all too excited to see the film adaptation of such a critical piece of African American literature…a piece of literature actually…that was dedicated to every single woman of color. Almost transcendental: Race, color, ethnicity–need not apply. It is a substantial and daunting task to navigate this type of work. Overwhelming even. Tyler Perry’s attempt falls short in some ways that I just can’t identify. But for the ones I can…

The casting for this film is brilliant. And their work in it is as top-notch as any of their other projects. Kimberly Elise and Kerry Washington are two of my favorite actresses, they have such presence, but I think Janet Jackson takes it in this film. Her portrayal of Joe, although clichéd in some ways, was also precise. They provided what could be called powerful performances..in any other setting..

However, this is the type of movie you hope to speak to your soul. Hoping that it will make you feel less alone in what sometimes appears to be your individual struggle. Maybe what I’m going through is universal? A rite of passage for all women of color? Give me hope! That is what I’m looking for, that is what I need. But the film doesn’t satisfy in that way. From the sadly surface and disappointing character development, lack of emotionally stirring dialogues, despicable human beings portrayed as black men, and very abrupt and almost incoherent flow and chain of disastrous events…it was good, but not what I, or maybe we, were hoping for. I don’t want to leave my theater in Harlem, the six blocks I call my universe, feeling more confused, scared, and angry than when I entered. We already have countless diaries of mad black women.

I searched endlessly for the book prior to watching the film. I never found it online and didn’t have time to purchase it before going to see the film. But for me, and maybe for many others, I now feel inspired and almost obligated to read it. I want to feel it the way it was meant to be felt. If it works in this way for others, if it connects my generation to a book almost 40 years old and set in such a decidedly feminist era where films of this nature were unheard of, and we can clearly see the connection in the struggle and feel the hope…the movie has met its purpose in my book.

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