The movie For Colored Girls has been getting mixed reviews from everyone, including me. I noticed the mixed reviews when a couple of people noticed the book in my hand. They both had different opinions. Well, what are other people’s take on the movie and whether or not it did its job?
Manohla Dargis from the New York Times shows some sympathy for Tyler Perry, who has been receiving hard criticisms left and right. We both agree that Tyler Perry’s style of “boiling melodrama, ribald comedy, abrupt tonal shifts, blunt social messages, unforced talk about God and flourishes of camp” does not necessarily fit with the content of the play; we also agree that he did a good job trying to reach the standards that Ntozake Shange raised. It’s especially hard to reach those goals when your style doesn’t fit the style of the book too well and when people are already critical of Perry’s previous movies. I could not hold in my laughter after reading the next comment Dargis made: “Ms. Jackson is, to put it gently, an actress of limited expression . . .” Although individual actors for me don’t make or destroy a movie, I felt that her ‘abilities’ were well suited for the role. The natural coldness of Janet Jackson’s face forces the audience to hate her until the very end where she shows humanity and vulnerability. There are only a few times in the film where we find “the play’s heart.” The fact that it only glittered and didn’t glow brightly in the movie probably angers the audience who has embraced and has learned from Shange’s piece. I feel as if everyone noticed the ‘awkward turtle’ in the movie. The rape scene plus the sound of opera music was simply uncomfortable.
One of my favorite reviews so far was written by moyazb at Crunk Feminists. She contributes a very sassy and thought-provoking review of the movie. It didn’t come to me till now but a man produced this film that is about women. After participating in affinity groups at the recent Student Diversity Leadership Conference in San Diego, I have realized how important it is to speak from the ‘I’ perspective. It avoids anger and misconceptions.
There are twenty poems in the play and I feel that the connection and the order of the poems are pretty important to the experience. Moyazb and I share the same criticism that the spotlight and the focus was shifted on to men which was not the original intention of the play. The play focuses on the overarching themes and not the people themselves. I really enjoyed moyazb’s play on words, “Can there be an Oscar for colored girls who do the damn thing in a Tyler Perry film when the writing is not enuf?” Moyazb drops her very snappy analysis of what role gay men have in Tyler Perry movies: “black men have sex with men because black women won’t play their position, which is one of submission.” I think this is a fascinating way of looking at the situation. In what ways are men finding ways to satisfy the urge for power? Her next statement is in conversation with my comment about the major role of demonization of people in the movie. The men in the movie do blame women for their problems, but as an audience, we were put in the position of hating the men. Somewhere over the rainbow, there are those who took the blame as a serious proclamation to take into consideration. By the end of the movie, I did not feel that I left “with a sense that there’s something these women should have done.” I left feeling as if they didn’t have the opportunity to leave.
Deciding how successful Perry was of translating literature to the big screen is a tug-of-war. Courtney Young from The Nation, responds to many of the approvals of Perry’s movie as well as the commentary attached to it. Courtney Young points out that although the movie was a huge success economically, the translation was not. Young notices Perry’s narrow scope and his limited style. Young goes as far to say that “Shange’s text [is] beyond the scope of [Perry’s] own familiarity.” The question of his eligibility to do the film comes up once again. Young wonders herself if Perry understands what the text is about. She and other critics believe that Perry puts too much of his personal agenda into his work; for example, the strong theme of religion in all of his films. From the few reviews I have read, the critics as well as myself believe that the play was never about the men in these women’s lives. After reading the play, I felt “triumphant, in awe,” but after watching Perry’s movie, like Young, I feel “nothing but sadness.” I guess Perry’s movie decided to focus on the horrible and gruesome instead of focusing on how empowering these women’s stories are.
The mixed reviews will continue. Read the play. Watch the movie. Formulate an opinion about both. Just know that a happy media is not possible.