Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tyler Perry's new film is a dense drama extracted from poetry

In 2010, Lionsgate has sponsored and released Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls”, a film somewhat in the spirit of last year’s “Precious” (Lee Daniels). The film is adapted from a play by Ntozake Shange, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf”. In the original play, seven women are keyed to colors and in turn to 20 poems, but in the movie each poem has a separate female character.

The film might seem loosely like “Howl”, which is structured around a Ginsberg poem (in a courtroom drama), but here the multiplicity of poems translates into individualized characters whose stories intersect much as in a Robert Altman film. The story seems to take place in New York, but the indoor scenes were shot in Atlanta.

Some of the script does sound like poetry (in a few scenes near the beginning and end, on a dance floor, it is almost read), and in the middle there is an opera-like performance of a Broadway play I didn’t know.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the story concerns a woman (Thandie Newton) who raises two kids with an abusive boyfriend, attracting the concerns of a social worker. The domestic situation gradually leads to a horrific tragedy, with behavior that is pretty much unspeakable. Her boss (Kimberly Elise), while tending to brush people off while running her magazine (rather like Meryl Streep’s Prada character) must witness the tragedy, learning to connect to people, and then deal with her own challenges in the way of an HIV-infected husband (Omari Hardwick) who admits he is gay except in name. Whoopi Goldberg (“White”) plays the religious mother almost driven by a Christian burqa.

This is a long and intense – and sometimes wordy – film, at 134 minutes.

The website is this.

Lionsgate provided YouTube with its own embeddable trailer.

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