For Colored Girls (Lionsgate, R)

The onslaught of horrors these characters face (in what appears to be no more than a two week period in the movie) feels patently unfair and manipulative.


I don’t have a problem with Tyler Perry, per se. I appreciate that he’s won the title of ‘Our One Black Filmmaker,’ and I love that he’s giving opportunities to black actors and film industry professionals. I know he means well. It’s just that his stories come across as a bit simplistic, and his characters can be somewhat cartoonish.
For Colored Girls is based on a stage play by Ntozake Shange, and I was, frankly, overjoyed when I heard he was filming someone else’s work this time around. The stories might be more layered, I thought. Maybe the characters will be less black-and-white. Let’s see what he can do with previously acclaimed material.I was optimistic—until I saw that he wrote the adaptation himself, that is.
For Colored Girls focuses on the trials of a group of African American women in modern day New York. Now, not having seen or read the original play, I can’t tell what aspects have moved directly onto the screen and what was re-jiggered for the film. I can tell you, however, that the onslaught of horrors these characters face (in what appears to be no more than a two week period in the movie) feels patently unfair and manipulative.
Every character is clearly a "type." We have: the crazed religious fanatic, the nosy but caring neighbor, the college-bound teen who has everything going for her but might mess is all up in the eleventh hour and the upwardly mobile do-gooder. We also see the artistic dreamer, the slut, the woman who cares about everyone else but can’t get her own life in order, the rich and powerful black woman who avoids regular black folks like the plague and the abused woman.
Notice how I didn’t list character names or who plays which role? That’s because it doesn’t matter. I couldn’t remember a single character name even seconds after leaving the theater, because this movie isn’t about the characters. For Colored Girls is not what you’d call an escapist, good-time action movie, so that’s not a good thing at all.
We don’t really know these women. Sure, the actors do their bawling best, and Perry gives us snippets of info that let us piece together how some of the characters ended up here, but they never feel like real people. Honestly, they feel more like constructs, existing only to show us that bad things happen and make the audience think, “Oh my God, how did it come to this? Being a black woman must be so crappy!”
I realize that the abominations visited on the characters (child molestation, date rape, botched abortions, etc.) occur in real life. Nevertheless, it’s all too much, too soon to elicit anything but surface emotions. None of the situations even prove to be thought provoking. When something truly, unbelievably shocking happened to our abused woman, all I could think was, “That’s terrible, but that’s the type of thing you get when you stay with an abusive alcoholic.”
By the time we get to that group hug we’ve all seen in the trailer, eight of the nine women have learned their lesson. However, it doesn’t feel remotely authentic. It feels like the stories are over simply because it’s time. Perry couldn’t think of anything else to lob at our ladies, and the actors couldn’t do any more crying, screaming, chest-beating or hand-wringing. And as I think about it, though, that really is for the best.│Adrienne Jones

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