Tyler Perry is a wildly successful actor, director, producer and all round mogul whose movies make oodles of money but so far have received very little love from the award gods. His latest film, “For Colored Girls”—an adaptation of the Tony Award nominated Broadway play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf”—is his most ambitious film to date but will it be enough to elevate Perry from the ranks of money maker to award winner?
Directing a sprawling ensemble cast Perry (who adapted Ntozake Shange’s original script) weaves together the stories of eight African-American women as they deal with personal issues like the search for love, rape, emotional abandonment, infidelity, sexual repression and abortion. Perry retains the play’s poetic approach, mixing naturalistic dialogue and stark real-life drama with free, impressionistic verse.
“For Colored Girls” is Perry’s most accomplished and ambitious movie to date. It’s risky material, from the dire situations most of these women find themselves in (may I suggest group therapy for the cast?) to the style of language, which is likely to confound and confuse many viewers, and while he has stayed true to the tone of the play, I couldn’t help but think that this type of material would work better on stage. Much of the poetic language is beautiful or evocative—a car is described as “smelling of alcohol and ladies in heat”—but despite good performances from the cast the writing often seems too delicate to be blown up for the big screen.
Couple that with Perry’s melodramatic touch and “For Colored Girls” loses much of its importance of message to overwrought scenes and clichés. The play was a series of monologues and the movie does not improve on the form by intertwining them or creating worlds for the characters to exist in. The choppy segues from character to character feel contrived and as a result, so do the situations that frame the monologues. Individually the stories may have power but as hard as it may be to believe after a while the viewer gets immune to the endless and continuous misery inflicted on these characters.
“For Colored Girls” earns points for ambition and good performances from the cast, particularly Thandie Newton as a troubled sex addict, Macy Gray as the movie’s Acid Queen and Phylicia Rashad as the wise Gilda, but as bold a step as this may be in Perry’s career it isn’t nuanced or interesting enough to gather much steam come awards time.