The Color Purple

Verdict: The Color Purple boasts some spectacular musical sequences, gorgeous cinematography and impressive performances.

  • Halle Bailey, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Corey Hawkins
  • January 26th 2024
  • Blitz Bazawule

Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P. Henson star in the movie musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel.

Alice Walker’s novel was adapted into a film in the 1980s, then a Broadway musical, and now there’s a movie version of that musical.

This new adaptation, directed by Blitz Bazawule, is set between 1909 and 1947 and tells the story of Celie Harris (Fantasia Barrino), who is forced to marry Mister (Colman Domingo) and essentially be his slave.

Separated from her two children and her beloved sister Nettie, Celie manages to find some solace in the form of Mister’s longtime mistress, the famous blues singer Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), and Mister’s no-nonsense daughter-in-law Sofia (Danielle Brooks).

The hard-hitting story doesn’t seem well suited for a musical adaptation but it really works. The songs help lighten the load and offer respite from the heaviness and also make the happier moments more of a celebration.

They aren’t particularly memorable but they are effective in the moment, whether it’s to convey a deep emotion or level up the entertainment factor.

Hell No is an empowering anthem about standing up to your man, while Shug’s performance of Push Da Button is a fun number with an excellent entrance from Henson.

There are a couple of big choregraphed sequences – Shug Avery and Movin’ – that were particularly well staged.

The story is loyal to the novel and Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film but it is not a copy-and-paste job. There are some of the same lines but it feels like its own thing.

For example, the nature of Shug and Celie’s friendship is made more explicit and Mister is offered a redemption storyline.

Barrino is superb as Celie – particularly when she is given the opportunity to show off her impressive voice – but the character is a shy wallflower so she is naturally outshone by bigger characters like Shug and Sofia.

Brooks was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar this week and rightly so. Her Sofia is fierce, sassy and before her time and she is responsible for most of the laughs.

But she also has a really sad storyline and Brooks toggles between both modes with ease.

After her run as Cookie in Empire, it was obvious Henson could play a larger-than-life performer like Shug, who commands attention whenever she walks into a room. It’s easy to see why everyone falls in love with her – she is so charming.

The only downside is the length. Although many of the stage show’s songs have been cut, the movie is still 2 hours and 20 minutes long and you really feel that near the end as the various storylines take a while to wrap up.

It may not be perfect, but The Color Purple boasts some spectacular musical sequences, gorgeous cinematography and stellar performances.

In cinemas from Friday 26th January.

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