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|For Colored Girls|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tyler Perry|
|Produced by||Tyler Perry|
|Screenplay by||Tyler Perry|
Anika Noni Rose
|Music by||Aaron Zigman|
|Editing by||Maysie Hoy|
|Studio||34th Street Films
Tyler Perry Studios
|Running time||134 minutes|
|Box office||$37,747,016 |
For Colored Girls is a 2010 drama film adapted from Ntozake Shange's 1975 stage play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry, the film features an ensemble cast which includes Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, and Kerry Washington.
Like Shange's play—which is considered to be a landmark piece in African American literature and black feminism—the film depicts the interconnected lives of nine women, exploring their lives and struggles as women of color. It is the first film to be produced by 34th Street Films, an imprint of Tyler Perry Studios, and distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment. It is also Perry's first R-rated film, to date. With a budget of $21 million, For Colored Girls was released on November 5, 2010, grossing $20.1 million in its opening weekend.
With generally mixed reviews, several critics have asserted that Tyler Perry failed to adequately translate the original stage play to film, while more supportive critics describe the film as his finest work to-date. Shange noted her apprehension in allowing Perry to adapt her work, but was ultimately supportive of the film.
Retaining the play's poetic style, the film's lead cast consists of nine African-American women, seven of whom are based on the play's seven characters only known by color (e.g. "lady in red," "lady in brown," "lady in yellow,"). Like its source material, each character deals with a different personal conflict, such as love, abandonment, rape, infidelity, and abortion.
The characters are represented by a color: Jo/Red (Janet Jackson), Juanita/Green (Loretta Devine), Yasmine/Yellow (Anika Noni Rose), Tangie/Orange (Thandie Newton), Alice/White (Whoopi Goldberg), Gilda/Gray (Phylicia Rashad), Crystal/Brown (Kimberly Elise), Nyla/Purple (Tessa Thompson), and Kelly/Blue (Kerry Washington). Each of their stories are different, but the characters interact within each other's lives.
The show opens with Tangie throwing her latest lover out of her house. Right after that, as Juanita arrives to piss Frank off with a houseplant, Kelly, who works for child welfare, attempts to visit Crystal on behalf of the children, but she does not get very far. As she flees her alcoholic husband, Beau Willie, she gets some good advice from Gilda. Meanwhile, Alice shows up to beseech Tangie for money, but gets rebuffed instead. Alice goes out to raise money, and encounters Yasmine, who gives her a little money.
Yasmine, a dance teacher, is boasting of how dancing gives her underprivileged girls opportunities, a way out of the ghetto, and into college. Nyla tells her friends in the class about her graduation night with a pack of cousins, then has to throw up. Kelly's husband comes over and arrests two men, one of whom is Jo's husband. Juanita is waiting in Jo's office, with Jo's terrified assistant, Katina, running scared and making tea, and Crystal running late for work. Jo rejects the work of her photographers, demanding work of the highest caliber.
Juanita is let into the office, and attempts to interest Jo in her work at starting a medical center. But Jo refuses, asserting that everyone rises and falls by their own merits. Juanita tries to warn her about the suffering in the community she cannot even see. She asks Jo what the price she has to pay to be so powerful, yet self-centered, then forcefully storms out. Kelly and her husband visit a physician, who reveals she had an untreated STD that has stripped her of the ability to have children. So Kelly runs off.
Juanita gives condom advice to a group of women, only to be bothered by Frank. She brushes him off and returns to giving the women sensible talk about how to avoid unwanted consequences from sex. Tangie, who works as a bartender, finds a man and decides to show him a night of pleasure. That night, Crystal implores Beau to stop drinking, while he cares only for her accepting his marriage proposal, in the hopes of increasing his welfare benefits. Jo, meanwhile, implores her husband to call her, revealing to us that they'd had a fight that night.
At the same restaurant, Yasmine and Bill having a magical night. Alice comes home, grumbling that Nyla moved her box. But Alice shows Nyla the money she has been collecting and asking for, and gives it to her, believing that it is for Nyla's entrance into college. It is not enough, and asking Tangie is discussed, but Alice instead tells Nyla that her god will provide. Yasmine continues her date, explaining that she loved dance more than anything, until she met Bill. Meanwhile, Tangie is having a great time, until she discoveres the man thinks she is a prostitute.
She throws him out only to be met by Nyla in the hall. Nyla requests money, which angers Tangie. Tangie correctly diagnoses Nyla as pregnant, which Nyla denies. Tangie relishes her cruelty, enjoying the idea Alice will hate Nyla the way she hates Tangie. So she tells her about an abortionist, and how to find her.
Jo is in her house when her husband returns. He claims his battery died, but that does not stop her. We learn that he took money from her bank account for an investment that failed; the source of the fight she mentioned earlier. He feels emasculated, stripped of his automatic right of command of the house, in favor of him submitting to her will.
Kelly's husband comes home and sees Kelly, so Kelly decides to pour her heart out to her husband in a refreshing breath of honesty. Long before she was married, she and a friend were dating the same man, unbeknownst to her. He also gave her a disease which caused her infertility. Despite this, her husband loves her, and stands by her side. Frank attempts to bother Juanita again, seducing her heavily resistant will into taking him back.
The next day, Crystal makes an appointment for Jo, then delivers flowers and phone call from Jo's husband. He allows himself to go to the opera, which she loves and he hates, as a means of an apology. However, he is clearly looking at men, desiringly. Yasmine is elated by flowers when Tangie comes to pay Nyla's three-hundred dollar bill. She warns Yasmine about her suitor's intentions, and offers to pay on Nyla's behalf, but Yasmine informs her that there is nothing she has to pay for in any way.
Tangie realizes Nyla has gone to see the abortionist, Rose (Macy Gray), which indeed she has. The abortionist is terrifying, and probably drunk.
While Jo is at the opera, watching as her husband and another man give each other the eye, Yasmine lets her suitor into her house. He removes his clothes, then hers, and savagely rapes her. The next morning, Jo angrily demands Crystal find a list of advertisers, which Crystal realizes, horrified, that she left in her house, and Jo takes her home.
Seeing a male driver in the car, Beau Willie believes Crystal is having an affair. The abuse begins, and can be heard in Gilda's house as she watches the kids. She tries to calm their fears by telling them about her first husband. Going to Gilda's house, he captures the children and brutally kills them by dropping them out the window as Gilda goes to find help. Beau later gets arrested and is sent to jail for the murder of his own children.
Jo and an arriving Juanita all serve as witnesses, along with Gilda, to the brutal murder of the children. Kelly's husband interviews Yasmine in the hospital about the rape, to which she gives him a blistering poem as her answer.
Alice storms into the hospital to find Nyla with Kelly and some cops. Nyla was found alone and badly wounded.
Kelly, walking through the hospital, discovers the grieving Crystal, along with Jo, Gilda, Juanita, and Kelly's husband. Remembering these people and learning of the children's murders, she tells her husband exactly who to go after, and where.
Alice storms Tangie's house and confronts her, violently, about Nyla seeing the abortionist. She throws Tangie's newest conquest out of Tangie's house, and they argue about sexuality. They also recite poem and counter-poem against each other. We learn that Tangie's grandfather, Alice's father, raped her, causing Alice to send her to the abortionist. But Alice was watching her, supervising and protecting her, whereas Nyla was unsupervised. She reveals that her father not only took her virginity, but at fifteen, forced her to make granddaughters with a white man. Finally, Tangie screams that Alice, thinking herself so holy, let their grandfather molest her and she sees Gilda in the hall. Gilda replies "nothing" to Tangie when she yells "what are you looking at", then intrudes on her apartment, which Tangie accidentally locked herself out of her apartment.
Gilda treats Tangie's shiner with some ice. She tells her that it is not just sex; she needs to find the root if she is ever going to be healed. She knows this because she once was just like Tangie. Juanita comes home to find Frank gone, but he soon comes home. Jo informs her husband, who comes home far too late, about the murder of Crystal's children. Her tears wash away some of her blindess to the suffering of others, (which Juanita had earlier tried to talk with her about) as she realizes how she failed to notice the clear abuse Crystal was going through.
Alice and Nyla come home, and Alice forces Nyla to pray for forgiveness while anointing her head with dust and oil. She attempts to exorcise her daughter, to which Nyla slaps her and flees. She tries to seek help from Yasmine, who does not sleep, but sits in bed with a knife, causing Nyla to flee again. Crystal tries to scrub the blood stain of her children from the sidewalk telling Kelly of the discomfort she feels with person's walking on her "babies blood". Cover in dirt and oil Nyla finds them, Crystal and kelly invites her in where she reconcile with Tangie. Jo comfronts her husband about him being gay, which he denies then admits. At the end all the ladies except Alice talk about the pain and hurt they faced throughout their lives but it ends with them all moving forward together in strength.
- Janet Jackson as Joanna Bradmore
- Thandie Newton as Tangie Adrose
- Whoopi Goldberg as Alice Adrose
- Phylicia Rashad as Gilda
- Anika Noni Rose as Yasmine
- Loretta Devine as Juanita Sims
- Kimberly Elise as Crystal Wallace
- Tessa Thompson as Nyla Adrose
- Kerry Washington as Kelly Watkins
- Macy Gray as Rose
- Michael Ealy as Beau Willie Brown
- Omari Hardwick as Carl Bradmore
- Hill Harper as Donald Watkins
- Khalil Kain as Bill
- Richard Lawson as Frank
On September 3, 2009, Lionsgate announced it had acquired the distribution rights to Tyler Perry's 34th Street Films adaptation of the play, with principal photography originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, Georgia in November and December 2009, with a planned 2010 release. The film was written, directed, and produced by Perry. The cast includes Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington and Thandie Newton. Mariah Carey had also been cast, but pulled out in May 2010, citing medical reasons (later revealed to be her pregnancy); Thandie Newton was cast to replace her. Macy Gray was also cast.
Originally using the play's full title, the film's title was shortened to For Colored Girls in September 2010. In an October 2010 press conference with the cast, Perry credited his full body of work for being able to make the film, stating, "It took everything—Madea, House of Payne and all of that—for me to be able to do For Colored Girls. Had none of that happened I wouldn’t have been able to say, 'Listen, this is what I want to do next,' so I’m very proud of it all."
When asked if she held reservations about Perry's adaptation of her work, Shange responded: "I had a lot of qualms. I worried about his characterizations of women as plastic." In reference to the film post-production, she stated, "I think he did a very fine job, although I'm not sure I would call it a finished film."
The film was originally planned for a 2010 release, but was later delayed until January 14, 2011. However, the studio chose to move the release date forward to November 5, 2010; Tyler Perry commented it was "a serious film that really lends itself to the Fall period." Grossing $20.1 million in its opening weekend, For Colored Girls debuted at the box office at #3, behind Megamind ($47.7 million) and Due Date ($33.5 million).
Upon its release, For Colored Girls' received generally mixed reviews from most critics. At Metacritic the film received an average score of 50, based on 33 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews". Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 32% of 102 professional critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.3 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "Tyler Perry has assembled a fine cast for this adaptation of the 1975 play, and his heart is obviously in the right place, but his fondness for melodrama cheapens a meaningful story".
Early reviews from a private screening by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter were negative. Peter DeBruge of Variety stated that "[i]n adapting Ntozake Shange's Tony-nominated play—a cycle of poetic monologues about abuse, abortion and other issues facing modern black women, rather than a traditional narrative—the do-it-all auteur demonstrates an ambition beyond any of his previous work. And yet the result falls squarely in familiar territory, better acted and better lit, perhaps, but more inauthentically melodramatic than ever." Despite an overall negative view of the film's plot and direction, DeBruge gives praise to the acting of its principal cast.
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter also highlighted the difficulty in translating Shange's poetic play to film. He commented: "No, it never was going to be easy, but someone needed to put creative sweat into this one, to reach for cinematic solutions to the theatrical challenge. All Perry does is force conventional plots and characters—utter cliches without lives or souls—into the fabric of Shange's literary work. The hackneyed melodramas get him from one poem to the next but run roughshod over the collective sense of who these women are." Honeycutt acknowledged the talents of the film's actresses, highlighting performances by Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, and Kimberly Elise.
Critic Marshall Fine gave a negative review in The Huffington Post. He asserts Perry's screenplay is inadequate for its source material, stating that each character "gets the opportunity to suddenly burst into Shange's poetic arias. But the connective tissue that links the various stories ... amounts to a college course in black social pathology—or perhaps just human pathology." Acknowledging the acting talent of the ensemble cast, he states: "Don't get me wrong. The women of this film all shine, hitting strong emotional notes that ring true even when Perry's adaptation feels false ... So let's just say that For Colored Girls is a barely competent film (which is a big step up for Perry), illuminated by luminous performances."
Similarly, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly comments: "The female cast is great, with especially fierce performances from Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, and Anika Noni Rose. But stuck in a flailing production that might just as well invite Perry's signature drag creation Madea to the block party, the actors' earnest work isn't enuf."
Claudia Puig of USA Today called the film a "strained soap opera" which "has wrung the beauty and truth out of the original in almost every way possible." Mary Pols of TIME magazine states that despite the caliber of the cast, "Elise's performance is the only restrained one in the film and her Crystal is For Colored Girls' most compelling character." She concludes that "For Colored Girls feels like the cinematic equivalent to putting a garish reproduction of the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of your McMansion and calling it art. "
In contrast, a review by Shadow and Act was favorable, calling For Colored Girls "the best thing Perry has done to date." Perry is complimented on his cinematography, and use of "subtlety and nuance", although his screenwriting is still considered to be the weakest aspect of the film. Like previous reviews, praise is given to the acting quality of the cast, especially regarding performances given by Thandie Newton, Janet Jackson, and Kimberly Elise. The Huffington Post journalist Jenee Darden gave a mixed review. She comments that Perry's modern plot conflicts with the narrative of Shange's poetry which was written during the 1970s, explaining: "The film is set in the present and black people don't use the word 'colored' anymore. Watching a character type on a laptop then hearing someone describe themselves as 'colored' a few scenes later doesn't feel realistic."
She commends the acting of the cast, stating "Kimberly Elise stirs you as always. Loretta Devine is funny and vivid. Thandie Newton delivers as a troubled, selfish sex addict. She and Whoopi were matched perfectly as a mother and daughter with serious tensions. Singer Macy Gray's eerie portrayal of a back-alley abortionist will make you rethink ever having unsafe sex." Roger Ebert comments that "Shange’s award-winning play is justly respected, but I’m not sure it’s filmmable, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a wise choice for Perry ... That’s not to say 'For Colored Girls' doesn’t have its virtues. Seeing these actresses together is a poignant reminder of their gifts, and of the absence of interesting roles for actresses in general and African-American ones in particular."
Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave a positive review, stating that "[w]ith a surgical precision, the writer-director cut [Shange's poetry] apart and reassembled it, using various pieces to create characters and storylines, keeping much of the poetry, writing the connective tissue himself so that it finds a new life, a somewhat different life on screen," and said it is his most "mature" film to-date. Commenting on the acting of the ensemble cast, she states: "Newton's Tangie swings too wildly; Goldberg's Alice, clad in white and rage, never finds traction; and Rashad, as the apartment manager Gilda, the central link between many of the characters, never quite connects, so it often feels as if she's walked onto the wrong stage" but adds that "[w]hatever stumbles there may be, they are offset by moments when 'For Colored Girls' soars," ultimately describing the film as "unforgettable."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle called For Colored Girls "a serious achievement." He compliments Perry's work, stating "this new film shows a mastery of tone, a capacity to elicit strong performances and also to bring out different colors within those performances so that, when it all comes together, it's not the same note sounding over and over. This is smart, lovely work." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film "a thunderous storm of a movie." Dargis states that "working with fine performers like Ms. Elise, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad and Kerry Washington, he sings the song the way he likes it—with force, feeling and tremendous sincerity."
Matt Zoller Seitz of Salon.com calls For Colored Girls Perry's "most problematic work. It's also his most ambitious." He adds that "Perry never solves the stage-to-screen translation problem. But the path he has chosen is as intriguing as it is irksome, and it works better than you might expect." In terms of acting, he praises Jackson's performance, stating: "[s]he outdoes herself here ... It's not just Jackson's short haircut and traumatized eyes that might remind viewers of Jane Wyman or Joan Crawford; Perry gets at the mix of masculine hyper-competitiveness and feminine vulnerability that has always defined Jackson, and links it to the wily, lonely coldness often captured in Wyman and Crawford performances, a directorial gambit of tremendous perceptiveness." In addition, he says Perry "is just as sharp directing Jackson's costars—especially Elise, Rashad and Devine."
Prior to the film's debut, For Colored Girls had gained commentary as a probable forerunner in the 83rd Academy Awards. Lionsgate's For Your Consideration campaign asked to consider For Colored Girls in all categories, including all nine actresses for Best Supporting Actress. However, due to unfavorable reviews, the film was overlooked by a majority of film and critic associations.
Despite mostly negative views of Tyler Perry's screenplay and direction, the film's actresses were almost universally praised, noting several had given award-winning performances, including "[Kerry] Washington, Janet Jackson and Phylicia Rashad." Guy Lodge wrote that Lionsgate should have pushed harder for an Oscar campaign in the acting category, because "[c]hief among them is the extraordinary Kimberly Elise, an actress who deserved an awards break in 1998 for her best-in-show turn in the similarly uneven but impassioned Beloved—and 12 years later, is once more the great lost Best Supporting Actress contender of the 2010 season."
Lodge is also complementary towards the rest of Elise's co-stars, stating they "produce enough high-level thesping between them to justify ensemble honors that didn’t materialize either. Anika Noni Rose, in particular, merits an individual shout, principally for a seething post-rape monologue that lands just on the right side of the film’s stage origins. As a sex-addicted bartender, Thandie Newton turns in some of the most alert, adventurous work of her career, while Janet Jackson’s tight range has never been more strikingly deployed. And ... Macy Gray’s unnerving cameo as a Harlem backstreet abortionist ... further convinces me she’s one brave casting decision away from a Mo'Nique moment." For Colored Girls has received accolades primarily from African American film and critic associations, in multiple categories including acting, writing, directing and overall production. Kimberly Elise has received the most acting nomination among the cast, followed by Anika Noni Rose and Phylicia Rashad.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|African-American Film Critics Association||December 13, 2010||Best Picture||For Colored Girls||Nominated|
|Best Song||Nina Simone||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Michael Ealy||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Kimberly Elise||Won|
|Black Reel Awards||February 13, 2011||Outstanding Actress||Kimberly Elise||Nominated|
|Anika Noni Rose||Nominated|
|Outstanding Breakthrough Performance||Omari Hardwick||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director||Tyler Perry||Nominated|
|Outstanding Film||For Colored Girls||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble||For Colored Girls||Won|
|Outstanding Original Score||Aaron Zigman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Original Song||Leona Lewis||Nominated|
|Outstanding Screenplay, Original or Adapted||Tyler Perry||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress||Janet Jackson||Nominated|
|Heartland Truly Moving Pictures||2010||Truly Moving Film||For Colored Girls||Won|
|NAACP Image Awards||March 4, 2011||Outstanding Directing for a Motion Picture/Television Movie||Tyler Perry||Won|
|Outstanding Motion Picture||For Colored Girls||Won|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture||Michael Ealy||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Kimberly Elise||Won|
|Anika Noni Rose||Nominated|
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