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It might have been a smash Broadway hit, but The Color Purple makes for a middling movie, where an odd balance between hard-hitting drama and light musical numbers gives a fish nor fowl result.

The narrative of Alice Walker's seminal novel remains powerful enough to regularly engage you in The Color Purple, but the room allowed for the musical numbers comes to the detriment of character development, which makes the film seem rushed and underdeveloped.

Chronicling the life of young black Georgian woman Celie throughout the first half of the 20th century, The Color Purple doesn't shy away from the harrowing events that befall her, yet emotionally their impact is dulled because the actors grind the film to a halt every ten minutes or so to belt out a forgettable song.

It makes for an odd, disjointed marriage. On the one hand the picture shows respect for the Alice Walker novel and its powerful themes of inner strenght and redemption. On the other hand the musical numbers go full-in on their brash, loud, coulourful Broadway roots and thus contrast sharply and unconvincingly with the mood and atmosphere of the overall narrative.

It doesn't help either that most of the actors perform as though they are on a New York stage and have to make sure the people in the last rows are given their money's worth as well. In a tale that requires nuance and moments of quiet contemplation to work, this approach mostly backfires.

The one exception is Danielle Brooks, recently Oscar-nominated, who gives The Color Purple a jolt of energy whenever she's on-screen, in the role played by Oprah Winfrey in the 1985 Spielberg version, which for all intents and purposes remains a superior version of this story.

release: 2023

director: Blitz Bazawule

starring: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo


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