Friday, February 19, 2010

#139 The Color Purple (1985)


Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Willard Pugh, Akosua Busia

In part, I can't believe I am saying this, but this film made me cry. I haven't been moved to tears by a film in a long time.

I find myself torn between wanting to fully let myself be submerged in the moving, dramatic aspects of the story vs. stepping back and just appreciating it. When watching a female character in plight, I can't help but want to appropriate the story in step with my own struggles and cheer for their revolution. But really, how can I relate to a woman with an abusive spouse? Even simpler, how I can relate to the plight of the black poor in the early 1900s? It's somewhat silly to make such comparisons, and I am left slightly isolated from the story as a result. With all epic tales of survival (based on truth or purely fiction), I can't help but wonder what my great victory will be.

For those that aren't familiar with the story, this movie is an adaptation of Alice Walker's novel about an impoverished rural black community in the early 1900s. One of Goldberg's first major performances, she plays Celie, a young girl who is married off by her sexually abusive father to man of the local church. In doing so, he separates her from her beloved sister, and also sells off her two illegitimate children that she conceived through his abuse.

She is destined to a life of beating and servitude to her abusive new husband, and it is only the arrival of her husband's infatuation, singer Shug Avery, that Celie is able to find hope. Watching this character open up is a very long, slow process, but a rewarding one. An exciting moment is when she finds her voice after the discovery of hundreds of letters that her sister had sent her over the years from Africa--letters that her husband had been hiding from her.

Other characters that are connected to Celie--their stories are also told. Oprah Winfrey plays the wife of Celie's step-son, whose fiery disposition gets her into trouble with the white community. Surprisingly, (I truly can't believe I'm saying this), Oprah Winfrey's acting was beyond impressive. It was downright spectacular.

This film is often criticized for being one of Spielberg's weakest films. Granted, this is one of the first adaptations of a novel where I watched the film without reading the book first (SACRILEGE!), but I found the film to be moving, beautiful, and not too entirely predictable either.

Certainly made this sleepless night go by much more peacefully than if I had laid tossing and turning.

Power de la femme.

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