Director Tyler Perry has thrown his hat in the Oscar ring with For Colored Girls. Based on Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking 1974 choreopoem, the film boasts a dazzling, multigenerational cast of black actresses: Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Macy Gray.
With all of the anticipation of what could very well Tyler Perry’s best movie here are five good reasons that you should check it out For Colored Girls.
1. Anika Noni Rose—is Yasmine, the dance instructor at the local community center. She is the color yellow personified—young, bright, and full of promise. The audience is swept up with Yasmine in the flush of young love, as she falls for Bill (Khalil Kain), her sweet and handsome suitor. But to paraphrase Shakespeare, the course of true love never runs smooth. In a sudden and violent three minutes, Yasmine’s heart and trust are crushed. The morning after, Rose delivers a heart-wrenching and devastating critique on the state of female-male relations in the 21st century.
2. Tessa Thompson—as the young ingenue, Thompson more than holds her own in her portrayal of Nyla. Thompson brings a sweet and youthful energy to the ensemble, and when her character seeks a desperate solution at the hands of Rose(a great cameo by Macy Gray), you’re almost forced to look away, knowing the horror she’s about to endure will leave her physically and emotionally scarred.
3. Loretta Devine—Devine’s character, Juanita, could be defined as one “hot mess.” From the garish red braids, overdone make-up, and neon-bright wardrobe, Juanita embodies that older woman from around the way, trying look and act young while way past her prime. But Devine does an excellent job at finding the heart and inner truth of Juanita. Like everyone else, she’s just looking for love.
4. A Night at the Opera—In an admirable flash of genius, Perry translated Shange’s poem “Pyramid” into an original, Italian aria titled “La Donna in Viola.” Performed by three African-American opera singers, (Karen Slack, Andrea Jones-Sojola, and Elissa Johnson) the opera scene highlights a pivotal climactic moment for Jo (Janet Jackson) and Yasmine (Rose).
5. Soundtrack—Remember when film soundtracks were just as important as the film itself (think Love Jones, or Waiting to Exhale)? The soundtrack includes an eclectic, mix of soulful goodies from Gladys Knight, Janelle Monae, Laura Izibor and Zaki Ibrahim.
Verdict: With incredible source material and a knock-out ensemble cast, For Colored Girls could garner Oscar buzz. It is without a doubt Perry’s most advanced film work with more polished cinematography. With a more urban setting like Harlem the film has grittier feel than his past work and there is much more secular tone. For Colored Girls forgoes the usual Tyler Perry stereotypes of Knights in shining armor, Cinderella fairly tales and over the top moral posturing. As an adaptation it is a serviceable interpretation of Shange’s work, but it’s weighted down by his usual heavy-handed use of melodrama. With a more subtle approach Perry could be well on his way to that Academy Award he covets so much.
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