Blu-Ray Review: Tyler Perry’s ‘For Colored Girls’ Deserves Another Look

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CHICAGO – Tyler Perry must have a bit of internal conflict. On one hand, he gets critically slammed for films that display little creative effort at all like “Madea Goes to Jail” or “Why Did I Get Married Too?” but those movies make money. Then he tries to do something clearly considered artistic with his adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” now truncated to simply “For Colored Girls” and recently available on Blu-ray and DVD, and it makes less than most of the films he’s directed. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

The movie is deeply flawed although certainly no more so than most of Perry’s hits. In many ways, it’s his most accomplished effort directorially and it features some very strong performances that play off the inherent power of the source. I can’t traditionally recommend the film but there’s enough that works here to feel bad that it was as summarily ignored as it was in theaters. Audiences seem likely to find it on DVD.

For Colored Girls
For Colored Girls
Photo credit: Lionsgate

The stage version of Shange’s choreopoem consisted of nothing more than monologues or poems – stories, life lessons, and confessions of a group of women finding their voices through expression. Perry gets caught in the gray areas between poetry, theater, and film in his efforts to expand the poem into something more cinematic. A 2010 film adaptation of a 1974 performed poem would have been a challenge for our best filmmakers and proved too much of one for Mr. Perry, but I certainly appreciate the effort more than seeing just another Madea sequel.

For Colored Girls
For Colored Girls
Photo credit: Lionsgate

This version of “For Colored Girls” essentially tells nine interconnected stories featuring Crystal (Kimberly Elise), Jo (Janet Jackson), Juanita (Loretta Devine), Tangie (Thandie Newton), Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose), Kelly (Kerry Washington), Nyla (Tessa Thompson), Gilda (Phylicia Rashad), and Alice (Whoopi Goldberg). They all have direct relations or minimal degrees of separation. For example, Alice is the mother of Nyla, who learns dance from Yasmine and is sisters with Tangie, who lives across the hall from Crystal, who is visited by Kelly.

The characters of “For Colored Girls” don’t just come with connections but also include heavy doses of intense, life-changing melodrama. Rarely has one film included more with Perry tackling spousal abuse, rape, murder, addiction, promiscuity, infidelity, unplanned pregnancy, and more. At times, the piece merely falls victim to the weight of the intensity of having so many subplots.

I’m not a fan of what a few of the actresses brought to “For Colored Girls” (Golberg, Devine, and Jackson strike not one believable note) but they are easily off-set by the cast members who work. In particular, Anika Noni Rose and, even more so, Kimberly Elise deserved discussion when it came to year-end awards for Best Supporting Actress. They’re that good. And they’re reason enough to check out Perry’s most ambitious effort to date. The film may still be far from perfect but at least its controversial director is moving in the right direction and that deserves more attention than has yet been given to “For Colored Girls.”

Special Features:
o DVD Version
o Digital Copy
o “Span of the Rainbow” Original Interactive Documentary
o “Prism of Poems” Enhanced Index
o “Transformation: Movie Magic” Making For Colored Girls
o “Music For Colored Girls”
o Living Portraits & Marketing Archive

‘For Colored Girls’ stars Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopi Goldberg, Omari Hardwick, Michael Ealy, and Hill Harper. It was adapted and directed by Tyler Perry. It was released by Lionsgate on Blu-ray and DVD on February 8th, 2011. It is rated R.

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