[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
The Color Purple

A musical version of The Color Purple

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

December 27, 2023 – I wasn't sure what to expect before seeing this movie. I thought from the previews that the musical version might not be as powerful emotionally as the 1985 Steven Spielberg version based on the 1982 Alice Walker book of the same name. It turns out to be just as powerful, emotionally.

This new version of the story is based on the Tony Award-winning stage musical of the same name, which ran from 2005 to 2008 on Broadway. It is produced by Hollywood heavyweights Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, as well as Scott Sanders (who also produced the stage musical), so it has money and power behind it, and that shows up on screen.

This movie has better music in the first five minutes than most movies have in their whole running time. In addition to some music kept from the 1985 film and the Broadway musical, it features a song, “She Be Mine,” cut from the stage play, while 13 songs that were in the stage play were cut from this movie. Award-winning musician, Jon Batiste, also makes an appearance in the film as Shug Avery's husband, Grady. Whoopi Goldberg, star of the 1985 film, also makes a brief appearance in this one as a midwife.

This movie makes the most of Taraji P. Henson's (“Hidden Figures”) incredible talent (and yes, that is really her singing in the movie, playing the part of singer Shug Avery). Shug's show-stopping entrance into church in the 1985 film, however, is replaced in this film with a more intimate reconciliation with her father, here played by David Alan Grier, seated side by side at a church piano. Shug does have a show-stopping entrance elsewhere in the film, however, dressed in an outrageous red costume.

The film's main character, the long-suffering Celie (Fantasia Barrino of “The Butler”) dominated and abused for years by her stepfather, Alfonso (Deon Cole of “The Harder They Fall”) and by her husband, Albert ‘Mister’ Johnson (Colman Domingo of “Selma”) she somehow retains her humanity. She endures, and rises.

This movie, set early in the last century, is about black women who are powerless, and other black women who have found ways to become powerful and more free. Shug has found power in her singing voice and her sexuality, while Sofia (Danielle Brooks of “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia”) gets her power by relentlessly fighting for it.

The story also has a measure of karma, when the abusive Albert Johnson is cursed for his inhumanity and then is subdued by fate, causing him to repent and mend his ways. There is a kind of reconciliation and reunion event at the end of the movie. Christianity serves as a unifying theme in this story as the forces of love, truth and kindness prevail over many trials and tribulations.

This story is from a bygone era. In today's divided world, there is no unifying system of beliefs. Nowadays people don't admit they've made mistakes, instead, they double down, and karma certainly is not something you can depend on. The only things consistent from 100 years ago, when this story begins, to now, are corrupt legal and political systems favoring the rich.

The amount of singing and dancing in this movie is overwhelming. I found the dancing (Fatima Robinson is the movie's choreographer) more compelling than the songs and the acting is more compelling than either the dances or songs. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen (“The Shape of Water” and “Nightmare Alley”) is excellent, and the sets and costumes equally so. The direction by Blitz Bazawule and writing gets the message across. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]