HOLLYWOOD—Filmmaker Tyler Perry is known for having audiences laugh in their seats for his portrayal of matriarch Madea, but his latest film, “For Colored Girls,” an adaption of the award-winning play by Ntozake Shange, is Perry’s best work to date. This movie has laughter, grief, anger, horror and so many other emotions it’s strenuous to list them all. The movie features an all-star cast that includes Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Anika Noni Rose, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise and Tessa Thompson. Audiences would think that with such a large cast it would be impossible to provide an ample slice of each woman’s life, but that is not the case. You’re drawn and connected to each character in a way that makes it selfish to pick a favorite.
We have Jo (Janet Jackson), the successful magazine editor on top of the world and impervious to the plight of others. She has no clue of the horrors that her assistant Crystal (Kimberly Elise) encounters at home. There’s Yasmin (Anika Noni Rose) who discovers everything on the outside is not always as it appears. Nyla (Tessa Thompson) grapples with her fractured relationship with her older sister Tangie (Thandie Newton) and their overly religious mother, Alice (Whoopi Goldberg). Juanita (Loretta Devine) is persistent in teaching her girls (nurses) the importance of safe sex and being a strong-willed woman. We also have Gilda (Phylicia Rashad), the nosey landlady who seems to be in everyone’s business. Finally, there’s Kelly (Kerry Washington), a social worker bent on protecting society’s most important aspect: our youth. These women are intertwined in each others’ lives and that’s the beauty of the movie; they’re blind in the beginning to the trauma each of them is facing, but in time, they are forced to acknowledge it.
The film is not an easy watch. Viewers may want to turn their eyes away from the screen at times because the movie addresses an array of issues, including molestation, rape, domestic violence, adultery, abortion, pregnancy, alcoholism, religion and sexuality, issues that are hard for the public to acknowledge; we know they exist, but we prefer not to discuss them. There is a particular scene in the film that will appall audiences; you will gasp, you will cry and you will scream—it’s so powerful that the emotions strike viewers at the core.
Many might have the perception that “For Colored Girls” is a chick flick and upon entering the theater, that was my thought as well. This film is not solely targeted for women; this film is for everyone, no matter your ethnicity or sex. It’s an eye-opener to issues that some of us prevalently see in our communities but we forget to acknowledge them. Even if those issues aren’t affecting us directly, there’s someone you know who is likely dealing with it. Perry strategically paces the film so it never has a dull moment. The dialogue is poignant and music to the ears. His ability to incorporate the poetry from the play directly into the film is incredible.
Each woman has a scene where she spills her guts and it’s captivating to watch and listen. Yasmin’s monologue in the aftermath of her rape is mind-blowing; it is powerful. The same can be said for Nyla, Juanita, Crystal and the other women.
The performances are top-notch; no one outshines the other, but if I had to pick a favorite, Phylicia Rashad, Loretta Devine and Kimberly Elise are top contenders in my mind for an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress. There is a subtlety to their performances that eat away at your soul and it haunts you. Each woman compliments the other and that’s why the movie works so well. “For Colored Girls” is not a film for the entire family, but for those who are old enough to view the film, it’s a must-see. Mr. Perry proves once again why he’s a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Of course, Perry could have chosen to depict such violent moments in the movie head-on, but he chose not to, forcing the viewer to depict in their minds what they think is happening or has happened. There are a lot of emotions that come with a movie of this magnitude and nature, but it’s a memorable piece of cinema that shines.