Film Critique: ‘The Color Purple’ – A Vibrant Musical Spectacle with an Outstanding Ensemble

by Joshua Brown
The Color Purple review

The film adaptation of “The Color Purple,” directed by Blitz Bazawule and based on the Tony-winning stage show, is brought vividly to life thanks to the dynamic performances of Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, and Danielle Brooks.

Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, previously transformed into a 1985 film by Steven Spielberg, might not seem the obvious choice for a musical rendition. The novel’s grim narrative, delivered through letters from Celie to God, delves into themes of trauma, poverty, abuse, and rape, hardly subjects that naturally lend themselves to musical treatment.

Yet, Bazawule’s adaptation manages to transform Walker’s powerful story of adversity into a spectacular musical showcase, particularly highlighting the resilience and spirit of Black women. The story’s inherent tragedies only amplify the impact of its uplifting conclusion.

The film occasionally struggles to balance its varying tones, a challenge also faced by Spielberg’s version. Nonetheless, the emotional rewards and the compelling central performances more than compensate for these moments.

Barrino’s portrayal of Celie, which she first assumed on Broadway in 2007, is deeply moving. Her character endures a harrowing life with her abusive husband Mister, played by Colman Domingo. Domingo skillfully brings complexity to his vile character, revealing layers of hurt and eventual redemption. The film delves into the generational trauma within Mister’s family, with Louis Gossett Jr. portraying his cruel father, highlighting the perpetuation of abuse.

Celie’s life, marked by separation from her sister Nettie (Halle Bailey), begins to see glimmers of hope. Notably, Sofia’s character (Brooks), reprising her role from the 2015 stage revival, emerges as a beacon of female empowerment. Her powerful performance, especially in the song “Hell No!,” marks a pivotal moment in the narrative.

The film’s production design, led by Paul Denham Austerberry, shines, particularly in the juke joint scene, although some of the more fanciful sequences disrupt the film’s flow. The adaptation’s circuitous journey from novel to film to stage and back to film is occasionally evident.

Shug’s character (Henson), a charismatic singer, injects glamour and complexity into the story, particularly in her relationship with Celie. Henson’s performance, enhanced by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck’s stunning costumes, brings a fresh perspective to Celie and Shug’s romance, which was previously underplayed in Spielberg’s adaptation.

The film, teeming with cameos from stars like Ciara, Jon Batiste, H.E.R., and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, navigates various dramatic moments, culminating in Celie’s powerful journey towards freedom, highlighted by Barrino’s unforgettable rendition of “I’m Here.”

Bazawule, a multifaceted Ghanaian filmmaker and musician, showcases his skill in capturing musical performances, a talent evident in this production. The film, produced by the original film’s heavyweights Oprah Winfrey, Spielberg, and Quincy Jones, is anchored by the remarkable performances of Barrino, Brooks, and Henson. Together, they transform the film into a poignant and unforgettable musical experience.

Rated PG-13 for its mature themes, sexual content, violence, and language, “The Color Purple” runs for 140 minutes and earns three and a half stars out of four.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about The Color Purple review

What is ‘The Color Purple’ film about?

‘The Color Purple’ is a musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel. It tells a harrowing tale of trauma, poverty, and abuse in early 20th century Georgia, transformed into a vibrant, soul-stirring musical spectacle.

Who stars in the movie ‘The Color Purple’?

The film features powerful performances by Fantasia Barrino as Celie, Taraji P. Henson as Shug, and Danielle Brooks as Sofia, among others. Their portrayals are central to the film’s emotional impact.

How does the film adaptation of ‘The Color Purple’ differ from the novel?

While the novel is a grim narrative of Celie’s life, the film adaptation by Blitz Bazawule transforms this story into a musical, focusing on the resilience and spirit of its characters, especially Black women.

Who directed the movie adaptation of ‘The Color Purple’?

Blitz Bazawule directed the movie adaptation of ‘The Color Purple.’ He is known for his previous feature, ‘The Burial of Kojo,’ and for directing Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ visual album.

What are the themes of ‘The Color Purple’ movie?

The movie explores themes of trauma, abuse, and the generational cycles of pain, alongside motifs of female empowerment, resilience, and the journey towards freedom.

What is the rating and runtime of ‘The Color Purple’ movie?

‘The Color Purple’ is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual content, violence, and language. Its runtime is 140 minutes.

More about The Color Purple review

  • Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel
  • Broadway production of The Color Purple
  • Fantasia Barrino’s Broadway career
  • Colman Domingo’s filmography
  • Danielle Brooks on stage and screen
  • Taraji P. Henson’s acting achievements
  • Blitz Bazawule’s directorial works
  • Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film adaptation
  • Historical context of early 20th century Georgia
  • Themes in The Color Purple
  • Reviews of musical adaptations

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FilmFanatic December 26, 2023 - 11:07 pm

Been a fan of Bazawule since ‘The Burial of Kojo,’ his style is so unique, excited to see his take on this classic story!

SarahJ85 December 27, 2023 - 8:23 am

wow, this review really makes me want to see the movie, heard good things about Fantasia and Taraji but this just seals the deal!!

TheatreLover December 27, 2023 - 8:56 am

Danielle Brooks was amazing on Broadway, can’t wait to see her in this film version, she’s just so talented

moviebuffRick December 27, 2023 - 3:10 pm

gotta say, wasn’t sure how they’d turn such a heavy book into a musical but seems like they nailed it??

CriticHunter December 27, 2023 - 5:10 pm

not sure if i agree with the rating, 3.5 stars seems a bit low for such a powerful cast and storyline? what do others think

HistoryGeek December 27, 2023 - 8:56 pm

interesting how they’ve incorporated the historical aspects of early 20th century Georgia, this kind of context really adds depth to a story


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