I’m not the type of person to stand in line opening night of a Tyler Perry film. I’m very critical of him and the messages he sends in his films. But last night was different. There was no Madea, no Tyler Perry acting in the film at all. It was For Colored Girls, the movie based on the iconic play for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuff by Ntozake Shange. I had heard of the play before, but only read it once I knew it was going to become a movie. The play is a choreopoem, a collection of poems read by seven women identified only by the colours they wear. Reading it, I had no idea how Tyler Perry was going to be able to turn this in to a film. The play is a classic to many people. I wanted to see how he’d be able to tell this important story about black women.
What made me stand in that line last night was the cast. I can’t remember the last movie where there was such a strong, black, female cast. I read all the anticipation and talk about the movie in articles and on Twitter, so as someone who recently read the poem and didn’t have the background of loving it for so long, I had to see it.
Before I get to the movie, I have to talk about the interest in the film. The show we originally wanted to see was sold out. We bought tickets to the later show that eventually sold out as well. We stood in a long line, the majority of people in it were black women. I was looking around and thinking no one can say that black people don’t go to movies. If someone makes a movie that represents us, we will go see it. It made me marvel at the power of Tyler Perry. The way he’s able to capture the interest of black people and get them to come out to the movie theatre is something I can’t help but admire.
On to the movie. It was both good and bad for me. There were parts that I enjoyed, and other things I had to roll my eyes at. One thing was I couldn’t forget that it was a Tyler Perry film. That was in the back of my mind the whole time. The standout aspect was the acting. Everyone did a great job in the film, especially Phylica Rashad, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine and Kimberly Elise. They were believable and seemed to really become their characters. Janet Jackson, however, was the weakest link. I love her as an artist more than anything, but in this cast, in this role, it was too much for her. I couldn’t forget that it was Janet and not her character. She seemed so stiff. At times it sounded like she was just reading lines off a page. It’s disappointing though, because Janet’s character had one of the more interesting story lines in the movie and she couldn’t pull it off. Whoopi Goldberg ended her retirement from acting to appear in this movie. I honestly don’t know why. She played the mother of Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson, a woman who was a part of a religious cult. During most of her scenes, people in the audience were laughing. I’m sure her character was supposed to be serious, but it came off as comedy. There was no point to her in the story, at all. That was also disappointing because she could have been used better.
I did like how Perry was able to weave the poems in to situations and story lines. The movie takes place in an apartment complex in Harlem where most of the women live. They would be dealing with their respective problems and then recite the poetry from the play at different times. In some parts, it fit perfectly and other times, it felt so awkward. I overheard women in the theatre wondering what they were talking about because they’d go from speaking normally to going off and speaking in this poetic language. It didn’t flow. Walking out of the theatre I thought that Perry could have just made a movie about a group of women living in the same building and the drama in their lives and left out the influence of the play completely.
By the second half of the movie, everyone was crying. All the women had at least one scene where everything was going wrong and they cried and cried. It was exhausting. It was depressing. Things happened to these characters that was so fantastical, so unbelievably sad that I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really feel connected to any of the characters. Maybe because everything was going so wrong in their lives and there were no good things to balance it out.
The review in the Toronto Star discussed the portrayal of black men in the film. It was overwhelmingly negative. Black men were the abusers, predators, the reason for the sorrow the women were dealing with. The only “good” man in the film, played by Hill Harper, was barely in it. When a black man was on the screen, you knew he was bad. You knew that he was going to do something to hurt one of the women. And while it’s true that men do terrible things to women, and the play is about women dealing with issues like rape, abortion, and abuse, it would have been nice to see one guy who was good. There are good guys out there, right?
My overall thoughts are that I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, but I didn’t hate it. I loved seeing great acting by black actresses, and addressing issues that are important to black women like safe sex and AIDS. I didn’t like how the poetry was recited at awkward times and I didn’t like how things were unintentionally funny. A friend told me her aunt had seen the movie during a special preview and said it was funny. I could see how she could say that. This wasn’t a movie that was supposed to be funny, but it’s Tyler Perry. Some of his dialogue is childish.
It was an interesting film to watch and discuss. Will I go to the theatre to see another Tyler Perry film? Probably not. But it was great to see so many black women come out to see a movie on opening night. I had a great time with my coloured girlfriends. I’ll probably forget the movie in a couple of weeks, but I won’t forget the night.