For Colored Girls

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By Wilson Morales

Distributor: Lionsgate
Director: Tyler Perry
Screenwriter: Tyler Perry
Starring: Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Michael Ealy, Kimberly Elise, Omari Hardwick, Hill Harper, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Macy Gray, Khalil Kain, Richard Lawson

Some will question whether he was the best person to direct the film, and while other choices would have been given a pass by the media, to some degree, ‘Colored Girls’ started out the gate handicapped with Tyler Perry’s name attached.

But, for as much as he’s done for the film community, and especially for black talent, writer-director-producer Perry still doesn’t get enough credit for the work and money he’s brought to the business. It’s easy to knock him down because he’s done plenty of Madea films, although most of them have been successful at the box office.

In adapting Ntozake Shange’s legendary play, ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,’ Perry’s film, ‘For Colored Girls’ is a new stepping stone in the right direction.

It’s not a perfect vehicle, but the one thing that stands out is the amazing acting by the ensemble. If anything, the performances outweigh whatever flaws one sees.

Themes of domestic abuse, the portrayal of men in a negative light, sisterhood, and love play to Perry’s strength; which is why his films have done well within the African American community.

While the play predominantly featured seven women who describe their angst over their domestic plights, the film expands the characters and adds males for visualization.

Kimberly Elise plays Crystal, a woman holding on to her marriage despite the fact that her husband is an unemployed alcoholic ex-vet (played by Michael Ealy) who abuses her. Janet Jackson plays her boss Jo at a major fashion magazine who’s dealing with her own marital problems with her stockbroker husband Carl (played by Omari Hardwick).

Phylicia Rashad is Gilda, the apartment manager who watches the lives of her neighbors, including Crystal and Tangie, a promiscuous bartender who constantly argues with her mother, played by Whoopi Goldberg, and sister Nyla (played by newcomer Tessa Thompson).

Loretta Devine and Kerry Washington are the women who offer support in different ways as Devine plays Juanita, a nurse who runs a women’s health and wellness clinic at a community center, while Washington’s Kelly is the social worker who tries to help Crystal with her domestic issues.

Meanwhile, Anika Noni Rose’s Yasmine is a dance instructor who quickly learns that what looks good on the outside doesn’t stay the same on the inside when it comes to men.

While some of the storylines are weaker than others, the scenes only get darker and nightmarish. These are real issues that Perry wanted to get across. On stage, the audience can only imagine the setting, but on film, they can see the dramatic effect.

It would be easy to point out which actress stood out and gave a tour-de-force performance, but this cast and film is built around the women as a unit and together, their performances were balanced in expressing Shange’s words. Some will get lost listening to the choreopoems being narrated, while others will embrace it.

Some may view the men as the villains in the film, but they are just part of the adversity that the women must overcome.

This is a play, written nearly 40 years ago, that many thought would never be made into a film, and through his success, Mr. Perry is in a position where he can a get a studio to greenlight the project. It also helped that Perry has his own studio to shoot the film, which is barely a cost to Lionsgate.

In the end, as with most of Perry’s films, the idea is for women to find faith, respect, and strength in themselves, and ‘For Colored Girls’ does exactly that.

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