Sunday, November 7, 2010

Colored Girls and Rainbows

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf [FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CON]When I first heard that Tyler Perry would be writing and directing the movie version of Ntozake Shange's choreo-poem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, I was very dismayed, bordering on angry.  I didn't feel he had proved himself as a filmmaker sophisticated or skillful enough to warrant being trusted with such profound material.  Perry has been very successful in making a lot of money outside the traditional studio system, but his body of work is simply not that good.  My introduction to Shange's work was a print of the original poster for the play that my mother hung on the wall.  And when I was old enough, my mother pulled the book off the shelf and gave it to me.  It's an experience black women share with each other across generations, and not to be taken lightly.  So I was fearful of seeing the movie.  But I went anyway with a group of girlfriends, and sat in a theater full of other black women doing the same.  Surprisingly, I didn't hate the movie.  While Perry's story-telling is plodding, his transitions non-existent, and some of the dialogue overdone and melodramatic, the cast of women and the source material were able to shine through thwarting what would otherwise be a train wreck.  The best parts for me were the women performing the monologues straight from the poems.  In particular, Anika Noni Rose as Yasmine, the woman in yellow.  She acted her butt off. as a woman dealing with date rape.  Unfortunately, the men in the film, who are not actually portrayed in Shange's work, are relegated to one-dimensional types- a rapist, philanderer, down-low brother, and a mentally ill murderer.  Hill Harper plays the only decent man, but the story of his relationship with the lady in blue (Kerry Washington) is not fully fleshed out enough for us to care.  In the hands of a more skillful filmmaker, the film would have been awesome.  In the hands of Perry, it is just palatable.  This rainbow of colored girls deserved better.

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