The Color Purple

Memories of Colors Purple past

The moviespeak in the ads for this film claim that it is NOT a remake (of Steven Spielberg’s wonderful 1985 movie) but a “bold new take” on the source material (Alice Walker’s seminal, Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel). Let me translate that for you: “It’s a musical.” Hell, Disney uses such phrases to justify plundering its catalog of classic animations to turn them into tepid live-action bombs. 

Now, I have nothing against musicals. In fact, I confess to a certain enjoyment of show tunes (I’ll deny this later). And the tunes here are beautifully performed (by Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson). A stage musical version has been around since 2005, so there’s been plenty of time to debug and polish these numbers. 

But the music per se is not the problem. It’s that the telling of this classic, uplifting story about abuse, redemption and forgiveness grinds to a halt every time someone starts belting out a song. It’s a narrative/performative see-saw that requires a restart of the story every time the singing dies down and causes jarring gaps in the storytelling timeline. 

My gripes aside, this is still a quality picture with a strong message of female empowerment, and well worth seeing. But it will go over best with 1) fans of musicals, and 2) those who have neither read the novel nor seen the first movie.  (141 min)