Published Nov 04, 2010Based on the famous '70s-era choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuff by Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls follows in the cinematic footsteps of last year's Precious (which director Tyler Perry co-produced) by exploring the narratives of black women who have surrendered too much to the men in their lives, often with devastating, hyper-tragic consequences.
And just like Precious, you feel hit over the head with all the tragedy, rendering it exceedingly difficult to give a hoot. Individual scenes of rape, spousal abuse or the loss of children would stand alone as spectacularly potent moments of tragedy in any normal film, but in For Colored Girls, they commit motion picture hari-kari by being situated back to back, with director Tyler Perry's constant overuse of the close-up on a weeping face. You can almost hear Perry in the background of each scene saying, "Okay, waterworks, now!"
The original choreopoem is so named because it is essentially a dramatic prose poem intended to be set to theatrical movement and physicality. It exists beyond the realm of reality or naturalism, instead meant for a highly stylized, hyper-surreal world, not linear storytelling. Perry, who also adapted the screenplay, unfortunately doesn't understand this and attempts to blend beautiful, fire-infused, poetic monologues with scenes of everyday, humdrum reality, which would never merge no matter how seamless the transitions. Characters go from saying, "Sit yo' ass down and shut up, bitch" to "Orange blossoms, lilies and moonstones" within the space of mere moments, easily landing on the wrong side of cringe-worthy.
Were it not for the poor direction and adaptation, For Colored Girls might be watchable for the powerhouse performances delivered by its all-star cast, which includes Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington (who plays almost the exact same character she did in Mother & Child), Phylicia Rashad and Whoopi Goldberg.
While you should keep an eye out for a jaw-dropping cameo by Macy Gray, this film really belongs to Loretta Devine, as Juanita Sims, when she declares, "Somebody ran away with all of my stuff! I'm under his arm and he doesn't even know it's me he's stolen!"; it's the most brilliant monologue taken from the choreopoem that actually works.
The lack of vision is astounding, so much so that had this been a radio play it probably would have been easier to follow. There's no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, just a lot of mud. (Maple)