Madea does not appear in Tyler Perry’s latest offering, “For Colored Girls.”
Fans of Ntozake Shange’s classic choreopoem were worried that “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” would be adapted into a melodramatic farce in the same vein as Perry’s other lighthearted movies, which featured the outspoken, gun-toting matriarch, have no fear. There are no cross-dressing grandmothers in this film.
The stellar ensemble cast, featuring the likes of Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington and Macy Gray, give life to the ladies created by Shange.
In adapting Shange’s work for the film, Perry gives the ladies names as opposed to just colors and he creates story arcs by having the women’s lives intersect at different points. Some characters are neighbors, others work together and others literally bump into each other.
These crisscrossing storylines give the movie an abstract, art house kind of feel at times, but they are also the point at which moviegoers will find the most Perry-esque touches. As his other films might indicate, Perry has a flair for the dramatic, and “For Colored Girls” is no different in that respect.
Shange gives the ladies depth with her words and Perry fills in the narrative blanks, so to speak, to further explain those depths and provide context for how the women meet each other. There are extremes that will make some audience members roll their eyes and make others gasp, cry and laugh as intended.
All of the women in the film give praiseworthy performances, but Gray, Devine and Rose in particular give depth and life to their characters.
Shange’s carefully crafted words resonate throughout the film. The women incorporate her poetry into the dialogue beautifully, which makes for abrupt shifts when Perry’s words are added. Even for audience members who have not read Shange’s work, where Shange’s words end and Perry’s words begin is very apparent and it momentarily rattles the audience out of magical moments when one gets lost in the film.
But even with some splashes of melodrama and the rough seams between Shange and Perry’s words, “For Colored Girls” is a movie worth seeing. The cast is impeccable and it’s refreshing to see Perry step outside of his Madea franchise. Fans of his films will still find a few familiar Perry touches, and those who are not fans of Perry’s other work can rest easy knowing that “For Colored Girls” is quite a departure from his usual offerings.
“For Colored Girls” opens nationwide November 5.