'The Color Purple' (2023) Review: A Momentous Musical
The filmmakers behind The Color Purple do not like an easy task. The original source material is a heavy piece of work that’s already been adapted with acclaim by one of the greatest directors living or dead. As if that wasn’t enough stacked against them, the new film seeks to take the daunting experiences of the groundbreaking story, and give them several song and dance numbers in a musical reimagining.
It’s a scheme so crazy, that of course it works. The risk certainly comes with reward in the form of incredible performances by its star studded cast, who play out the film’s inspiring story for a new audience. Young Celie is black woman faced with the perils of life in the 1900s American south. She’s a person without personhood, caught up in the whims of the men in her life, and her only solace is the solidarity she finds in sisterhood.
In a tale that twists and turns through time Celie finds her identity in a slew of some of the most harrowing experiences imaginable. As in the original source material The Color Purple, shows Celie finding moments of joy amidst the terror. The new film encapsulates this by probing into Celie’s vivid imagination, as the world around her erupts into choreography and passion through song.
It’s a visual delight to be sure, but it’s not without its drawbacks. The movie jumps through important elements with haste, and they occur so quickly it’s hard to really grasp what’s taken place. One might say this is the film’s way of depicting just how much trauma can feel like whiplash, jolting you out of comfort in an instant. This is the case for certain moments, but others feel underserved by the pacing, especially in the first act. As a trade off, the film treats the audience to its musical numbers, which take a conversation that could take a few seconds, and expands them into an emotional cinematic experience.
What ties it all together is the film’s impeccable cast. Danielle Brooks has the tenacity to bring Sofia back onto the big screen, Taraji P. Henson oozes the sensitive sensuality of Shug Avery with a cackle unlike any other, Halle Bailey has the innocence & intelligence for the young Nettie, and Fantasia can bring the crowd to tears with a single note. As iconic as these characters are, the performances here stand out, giving The Color Purple an identity all on its own.
Rating: Big Screen Watch
Note: While I appreciate you reading this review, movies are still incredibly subjective. If you think you might enjoy yourself, I encourage everyone to support the cinema industry as much as they can. Stay safe, and remember, life’s too short for bad movies.