for_colored_girls_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

The first time I heard of  Ntozake Shange’s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, it was to review a version of the play at the Lou Rawls Theater at Florida Memorial University.
Patricia Warren and Charlette Seward directed an interpretation of Shange’s series of poems about the strife of “colored girls”also known as a choreopoem.  Their version has a lightness  shown through the bright colors used to relate the poems.  I really liked it, although I hated the title.
Imagine my delight when Tyler Perry boldly stepped up to write, direct, and produce this series of poems as a film.

I didn’t think it could be done.  Perry has received a lot of flack for the melodramatic and the mediocrity of his films in the past.  I have lamented a few of his films myself.  But he is finally stepping into his own, creatively.

It is not easy to coordinate so many poems into an  understandable and relatable film.  But, if it could be done, why not let it be Perry?

Not only does he pull off the impossible with For Colored Girls; he nails it on its head and it leaves a lasting impression.

According to the storyline, nine New York City women grapple with the different aspects of being a “colored girl” in relationships.  I don’t like the term “colored girl,” because it has a negative connotation for me.  I like to think of these “colored girls” as beautiful, black, strong, resilient, vibrant women who endure the perils of life and manage to push through the sorrow.

In the film, Tangie, played by Thandie Newton, is a bartender and loose woman.  But it’s not the revolving door or men that need focusing on.  It’s the reason why those men are there that gets to the root of the problem.

Alice, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is mother of Tangie and Nyla (Tessa Thompson).  She is a classic hoarder and has a fanatical obsession with Elohim, the Hebrew name for God.  Her devotion to Elohim is so great that she loses sight of the human aspect of people and that they make mistakes. The saddest part of Alice’s story is that she, too, is acting out of a deep rooted issue, which alienates her daughters.

Nyla’s dance teacher, Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose), begins as a bright star of a woman.  She is single, happy, talented and a breath of fresh air.  But a fateful encounter with Bill (Khalil Kain) dims that light.

Kelly (Kerry Washington) is a social worker for child protective services who is trying to get pregnant with her husband Donald (Hill Harper).  Kelly’s situation is ironic in that she wants to give her love to a child but spends a lot of time with people who either don’t want their children or aren’t raising them properly.

Most tragic of all is one of Kelly’s cases, Crystal (Kimberly Elise), whose abusive, war veteran boyfriend Beau Willie (Michael Ealy) is an alcoholic given to violent fits.  It’s unfortunate that Crystal has fallen in love with a good man who became forever changed by fighting for America.

Joanna (Janet Jackson), Crystal’s editor boss, is a tightly wound force to be reckoned with.  Her assistants quiver before her and all respect her.  Like many successful women, Joanna brings her bossy nature to her home and her husband Carl (Omari Hardwick).  What Joanna doesn’t know, but finds out, is that Carl is a man on the down low.  His rock hard body, killer fashion sense and sexiness that exudes from his pores is too good to be true. 
Rounding out the group of women are the two powerhouses: Juanita (Loretta Devine) and Gilda (Phylicia Rashad).  Juanita keeps taking back Frank (Richard Lawson) but triumphantly comes to her senses.  Juanita, a nurse, helps to guide women in their own relationships.

Gilda is the mother of the group.  She knows all.  She’s seen all.  And, she is the perfect person to guide all.

Even though the men don’t have a voice in the play, Perry makes sure not only to cast a roster of sexy actors but also to have them own their characters, good and bad.

Any woman can relate to this film. The subject matter is weighted and you will have moments when you are so consumed with the plot that you can’t think or see straight.  And you will need a box of tissue.

However, it’s worth it.  Every story, every character and every scene is a visual testament to the phrase “my black is beautiful”–  with the most beautiful part being that you don’t have to be “black” to relate.  Just be willing understand.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com.

Patrick Harbron/www.lionsgatepublicity.com
COLORED GIRLS: From left to right: Anika Noni Rose (as Yasmine), Kerry Washington (as Kelly), Janet Jackson (as Jo), Kimberly Elise (as Crystal), Phylicia Rashad (as Gilda), Loretta Devine (as Juanita), Tessa Thompson (as Nyla) and Thandie Newton (as Tangie) in For Colored Girls.