'The Color Purple' review: Does this Broadway musical work on the big screen?

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TARAJI P. HENSON arsenic Shug Avery, FANTASIA BARRINO arsenic Celie and DANIELLE BROOKS arsenic Sophia successful Warner Bros. Pictures’ bold caller return connected a classic, “THE COLOR PURPLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The formed shines successful "The Color Purple." But is that enough? Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Color Purple had a agelong roadworthy from Pulitzer Prize-winning caller to Academy-honored movie adjustment to Tony Award-winning musical, and backmost to nan large screen. To understand head Blitz Bazawule's vision, you person to measurement backmost to wherever it each began. 

The Color Purple is basal reading. Alice Walker's 1982 caller is simply a gorgeous, heartbreaking, and difficult communicative astir Black women dealing pinch patriarchy and racism successful Georgia during nan early 1900s. Walker's tender, affectional prose tells nan communicative of Celie, a young Black female who knows everything location is to cognize astir pain. Abused, underestimated, and relegated to being a passive unit successful her ain life, Celie survives by sheer unit of will, hoping that life will yet springiness her a break. By nan climax, she much than earns her happy ending, moreover though it takes galore years to get there. 

Three years aft nan novel’s release, Steven Spielberg's movie adjustment of nan aforesaid sanction earned captious acclaim, container agency success, and 11 Academy Award nominations pinch a triumph for Whoopi Goldberg successful nan lead role. By this constituent successful his career, Spielberg had only made films pinch achromatic protagonists. He'd had done horror, science-fiction, action-adventure, and moreover comedy, but ne'er thing rather for illustration Walker’s achy Southern communicative of families torn isolated by patriarchy and racism. Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey — successful her acting debut — were rightfully launched into mainstream stardom. Despite its achromatic director, The Color Purple is considered a classical Black movie and a glowing illustration of book-to-screen adaptation.

This clip around, nan head is simply a caller face.

PHYLICIA PEARL MPASI arsenic Young Celie and HALLE BAILEY arsenic Young Nettie successful Warner Bros. Pictures’ bold caller return connected a classic, “THE COLOR PURPLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Those are large shoes to fill, truthful erstwhile it was first announced that The Color Purple would erstwhile again beryllium put to nan metallic surface — and this clip successful its philharmonic shape — nan mobility of who would nonstop has been hanging successful nan air. Marsha Norman's Tony-winning The Color Purple philharmonic has had 2 successful runs connected Broadway, nan first moving from 2005 to 2008, past again from 2015 to 2017, nan second mounting nan wheels successful mobility for a caller movie adaptation. With Spielberg successful a producing domiciled this time, yet nan chair was unfastened for a Black head to show this story.

Ghanaian head Blitz Bazawule was brought connected to helm nan film, caller disconnected his collaboration pinch Beyoncé connected her Disney+ ocular medium Black Is King. With only 1 solo characteristic nether his belt, The Color Purple is Bazawule’s large entranceway to Hollywood.

Danielle Brooks and Taraji P. Henson are standouts successful a awesome cast.

DANIELLE BROOKS arsenic Sophia and COREY HAWKINS arsenic Harpo successful Warner Bros. Pictures’ bold caller return connected a classic, “THE COLOR PURPLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Bazawule's type of The Color Purple still focuses connected Celie, this clip played by some newcomer Phylicia Pearl Mpasi and Fantasia Barrino successful her biggest surface role. The movie follows nan character's life from early adolescence to adulthood. Celie goes from surviving pinch her domineering begetter to being joined to a man conscionable for illustration him; her matrimony to Mister (Rustin prima Colman Domingo) is filled pinch endless chores and isolation. Mister is commanding and prideful, directing each his insecurity and vexation pinch nan world astatine nan women and children astir him. Having learned to create misery from his begetter (Louis Gossett Jr.), Mister passes down his domineering behaviour to his boy Harpo (Cory Hawkins), who becomes abusive toward his woman Sofia (Danielle Brooks).

Brooks has been a prima since nan first clip she appeared arsenic Taystee successful Orange Is nan New Black and she's been a revelation ever since. Here, she steps correct into Oprah’s shoes arsenic Sofia and they fresh perfectly. Reprising her domiciled from nan Broadway revival, her capacity is fun, sexy, confident, and powerful. 

Meanwhile, arsenic jazz vocalist Shug Avery, Taraji P. Henson is The Color Purple's concealed weapon. Though she dazzled connected nan mini surface successful Empire, this is nan first movie wherever Henson is fixed nan abstraction and attraction to show nan world conscionable really good she tin singing connected nan large screen. All of her numbers — from "What About Love?" to "The Color Purple" — are show-stoppers and she fills each segment pinch energy, kindness, and verve. 

The Color Purple struggles against its superior tone.

TARAJI P. HENSON connected nan group of Warner Bros. Pictures’ bold caller return connected a classic, “THE COLOR PURPLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Despite each nan talent involved, The Color Purple feels uneven. Musicals usability otherwise connected nan large screen, particularly if nan communicative isn’t sung through. There has to beryllium a equilibrium betwixt spoken scenes and philharmonic numbers that creates a unified vision.

But nan opposition betwixt nan joyousness and axenic power of nan euphony and nan somber contented of nan communicative doesn’t rather lucifer up. Movie musicals are often difficult to get right, and Bazawule struggles to onslaught nan correct balance. Some scenes consciousness rushed to group up nan requisite Broadway songs, while others statesman excessively quickly aft nan songs person finished. This tin time off melodramatic affectional moments without nan room to respire that could let them to really resonate.

This Color Purple has 1 large missed opportunity.

FANTASIA BARRINO arsenic Celie and TARAJI P. HENSON arsenic Shug Avery successful Warner Bros. Pictures’ bold caller return connected a classic, “THE COLOR PURPLE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Much for illustration nan first movie adaptation, The Color Purple leaves retired a very important portion of nan book: Celie and Shug’s queer relationship. 

The flirtation is still there, and there’s chemistry betwixt them, but nary of it leads to thing adjacent to nan passion described successful nan book. Celie and Shug person a passionate, unconventional narration not often depicted successful Black humanities fiction, particularly during nan clip nan caller was published. This caller adjustment had an opportunity to research that narration successful much detail, but it mostly chooses alternatively to instrumentality to nan model established by Spielberg’s lauded adaptation. Walker knew that Celie’s pleasance is conscionable arsenic important arsenic her pain, and it’s frustrating that The Color Purple continues to comparatively dim a immense portion of her life and identity. So to spot this facet erstwhile much shunted to nan fringes of nan communicative is frustrating. 

Perhaps different head for illustration Dee Rees (Pariah, Mudbound) would person honored nan queer tone of nan book much overtly. That could person attracted new, young readers to observe nan fullness of Walker’s caller aft they near nan theater. 

Overall, The Color Purple movie philharmonic is simply a mixed bag. While there’s nary denying nan talent progressive successful The Color Purple, nan pieces don’t each fresh together. Still, it's a joyousness to watch these actresses return connected these legendary roles. The Color Purple is simply a classical communicative for a reason, and nan tone of its beauty still endures. 

The Color Purple opens successful theaters Dec. 25.

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Jourdain Searles is simply a New York-based critic, writer, comedian, and podcaster pinch Southern roots and a heavy emotion for cinema. She has written for The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, Indiewire, and Vulture — among galore different publications.

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