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24 Frames per Second
Reel Books: For Colored Girls
For Colored Girls, Tyler Perry's latest film, was released in early November and has since received some mixed reviews. Tyler Perry as a director is known for addressing what can be very sensitive topics: for example, drug abuse in Daddy's Little Girls and unhappy marriages in Why Did I Get Married? The casts of his films are usually made up of actors and actresses who are well-known especially amongst the black community. However, it is his ability to capture basic human emotion on camera that has led to his success among of a diverse audience. Did you know that the film For Colored Girls is actually based on a choreopoem book called For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enuf written by Ntozake Shange in 1975?
THE MOVIE vs. THE BOOK
This film did a great job in displaying and stirring up every single possible human emotion. The audience was laughing, making angry comments and I could have sworn I heard someone bawling during what may be the most difficult scene. This movie was filled with actresses who happen to be women of color yes, but more importantly, they are absolute masters in their craft. They have the ability to make the audience completely forget that what they're watching is indeed scripted. The beauty of this movie is not only the talent but it is also the fact that we, the audience, are honored with the screen presence of such classic actresses as Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple) and Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) along with the younger women they helped paved the way for like Kimberly Elise (Diary of a Mad Black Woman), Janet Jackson (Poetic Justice), Loretta Devine (Waiting to Exhale), Thandie Newton (Crash), Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), Kerry Washington (Ray), and Tessa Thompson (When A Stranger Calls), the youngest of the bunch who I believe is a star in the making.
Images... When you read Ntozake Shange's poems you are forced to be focused on the subject at hand and what makes the difficult moments a little bit more bearable is the strength and warm sincerity in the tone of the monologues. However, because it is just words each person's vision of the scenes and interpretation of the poems will vary. With the film, you are forced to deal with the images and these images are extremely difficult to watch but they are the realities and just as the characters are forced to deal with these situations, so are you. Tyler Perry's way of offsetting these harsh situations is by cutting back and forth to a less harsh scene like a beautiful opera performance or modern dancing to sweet sounds. He also has a way of adding some humor in the most serious places. Now, I have to warn you, when watching the film there may be many moments where you'll want to look away or cry because of what you're seeing.
When it comes to the women in the book, the characters seem to be represented by the dancers and they are not introduced by name but rather, by the color they wear and their location. In the film, the female characters are given names but they actually do not represent the women from the book, they represent the characters from the stories being told by the women.
Also, the poems are not given in the same order as in the book and in the book each woman has a specific color that they wear but in the film the character's colors do not coincide with the specific colors and situations given in the book. For example: in the movie, Nyla usually wears purple... but a few of the poems she recites are actually the poems of "lady in blue" or "lady in yellow" etc.
The role of the men in the film, especially actors Michael Ealy (from Showtime's Sleeper Cell) and Hill Harper (author of Letters to a Young Brother), was very important. In the poems you don't really see a relationship between a man and a woman that is worth having—one with respect and loyalty and this in turn can feel very pessimistic. Fortunately Hill Harper's role gives some sort of ray of light and acknowledges that not all men or relationships with them are set for failure and heartbreak. Michael Ealy's role was just as important in that it gives us a bit of a background story on this violent man. In the book you figure he is a drunk for no good reason and you can't forgive him. But in the film, there is an emphasis on his being a veteran who turns to drinking as a means of coping. As a result, the audience at one point or another feels bad for him and realizes that who he has become is a result of what he has been through. The appearance of men also breaks the monotony of estrogen the same way the female presence did in the film The Social Network. This is probably good news for male viewers.
Is For Colored Girls really meant for only "colored" girls? No way! Although the poems contain certain ideas that may be offensive to some, if one can just look past that and keep in mind that like other great works of art such as Gone With The Wind or Breakfast At Tiffany's, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enuf was a product of the times (the feminist and civil rights movements of the 1970s). The truth is that everyone can learn and benefit from both the book and the film. Anyone.
Lessons... I think it's safe to say that there are different ways to view the film. I've heard it be described as depressing and my boyfriend left the theater saying, "Man, nobody wins in this movie." On the other hand some people saw it as disturbingly realistic yet ultimately optimistic. I personally felt that each of these women had hope. Jo is set free by the truth, Juanita finds her inner strength and pride, Yasmine finds healing by continuing to do what she loves, and so on. That to me is a good ending.
Tip: If you haven't seen the movie yet, try to get your hands on the book because it will help prepare you for what you are going to see. You'll also be able to better appreciate the poems themselves because while you're watching the movie, you get so caught up in the visuals that you can't concentrate on the words and they are amazing words that deserve to be read/heard on their own. Note: Some details are changed in the movie for a certain effect.
My Fave: Thandie Newton was awesome and often hilarious which is hard to do with such serious subject matters. Close second was Whoopi Goldberg. Wow, she was funny.
Irony: At the end, Crystal (Kimberly Elise) looks a lot like the woman on the book cover above.
So, movie or book? It's a tie... They are both remarkable in my opinion.
Do you see the movie or read the book? If so, please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments!