Saturday, November 27, 2010

FOR COLORED GIRLS (2010)

Written & Directed by Tyler Perry



Where & When: The Grove 14, Los Angeles, CA.  November 23, 2010  4:40PM



Tyler Perry's latest film is based on the acclaimed play, "For Colored Girls (Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Was Enuf ) by Ntozake Shange which focuses on the lives of seven African-American women and their struggles with love, rape, abortion and abandonment. In the play, each character was only identified by a color which Mr. Perry has used in the film by having each of the women mostly wear their symbolizing color.

Kelly (Kerry Washington) is the lady in blue and she is a social worker who wants to start a family with her husband, Donald (Hill Harper), a police detective but has just discovered that she is unable to have children.

Kelly is sent to investigate on a suspected child abuse case which is the home of Crystal (Kimberly Elise), a woman trying her best to cover up her own pain and bruises. Kelly is questioning the two children when Beau Willie (Michael Ealy), Crystal's unemployed, damaged war veteran boyfriend, enters and scares her out of the apartment. Beau Willie gets mean and abusive when he drinks but Crystal endures his behavior because she has loved him since they were kids.

Before Kelly leaves the apartment, she is stopped by Gilda (Phylicia Rashad), the landlord of the building. She actually called Social Services after overhearing the savage beatings through the thin walls, begging Kelly to do something before it's too late.

Crystal works as the personal assistant to Jo (Janet Jackson), a hard-boiled fashion magazine editor who can't be bothered with finding out why Crystal has been late for work these past few days because she has problems of her own. Her marriage to Carl (Omari Hardwick) is strained due to him coming home late after hanging out with his male friend all night.

Tangie (Thandie Newton), who also is a neighbor of Crystal's, is a bartender with a habit of bringing a different man home every night, offending the landlord. One morning, a woman dressed in white bangs on Tangie's door. It's her mother, Alice (Whoopi Goldberg), a member of a religious cult, that's asking for more money. Refusing to say what it's for, Tangie, who was left as the executor of her father's estate, turns down the request.

The money was for Tangie's younger sister, Nyla (Tessa Thompson). Alice is led to believe that it's needed to enroll for college but it's actually for an abortion. Tessa knows that her mother would never allow her to keep this child so, with directions given to her by her sister, Nyla heads to her local run-down, back alley, drug den where a crazy, drunken woman (Macy Gray) is the abortionist.

Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose) is Nyla's dance instructor who lives and breathes for dance but doesn't allow much time for romance. When Bill (Khalil Kain) keeps pressuring her to go out on a date with him, she finally gives in because he seems like a nice guy. After the date, Bill is a perfect gentlemen and Yasmine decides to invite him over for a home cooked meal. On their next date while Yasmine is preparing the dinner, Bill turns in to an vicious animal and sexually assault her.

Juanita (Loretta Devine) is a nurse and community activist who is turned away by Jo when she comes to her asking for money to start a local charity. Juanita spends a lot of time telling women how they should protect themselves from contacting diseases but she is unable to protect herself from a charming, manipulative man who keeps breaking her heart by repeatedly. After another horrific tragedy, all of these women come together, trying to heal each other and themselves.

"For Colored Girls" was supposed to have been a big departure for Mr. Perry. The writer/director was creating a film based on a respected, prize-winning play yet besides some cursing and brief nudity, we are still very much stuck in a Tyler Perry movie. The worn-out plot is trite and overreaching with almost all of the male characters are one dimensional, abusive monsters as their women, inexplicably, seem to love them unconditionally, no matter what they do to them. There is no sense of cinematic style or subtlety anywhere to be found. To be fair, there are a few well written moments scattered throughout the film but the problem is suffering through everything in between. I'm sure Mr. Perry is of the mindset that, "If it ain't broke. . ." but I think he would benefit by working with another writer to help curb his worst qualities as a film maker.

It's very sad to say that many big-name African-American actresses are not able to get a lot of screen time in feature films but fortunately Mr. Perry has given many of them opportunities to display their talents in leading roles. Despite having these wonderful, respected actresses giving poetic monologues, (that I believe are probably from the play) that worked perfectly well on the stage, these speeches completely pull you out of the film. Mr. Perry manages to get many fine performances from his leading ladies, most especially from Ms Elise, Ms Rashad and a little surprisingly, Ms Jackson but unfortunately the weak script make their efforts feel wasted.

"For Colored Girls" could have been a great opportunity for Mr. Perry to grow as a film maker and to challenge himself as an artist. But ultimately he stuck to the tried and true; doing what he thinks is his best and squandering that great opportunity.