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Does Tyler Perry Do Enough "For Colored Girls"?

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn November 4, 2010 at 3:38AM

Does Tyler Perry Do Enough "For Colored Girls"?

His core audience will think so. I'm not a Perry fan, but watching his adaptation of the 1975 play "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" at the Ziegfeld last week, it was clear to me that as a director, Perry is virtually incapable of not preaching to the choir. Despite confusing claims that "For Colored Girls" represents an attempt to diverge from his base and make an "art film," the movie still features the same clumsy direction and stagey performances that turn all of his dramas into wildly uneven affairs. (At least in his comedies, the histrionics fit the expectations of the genre.) The screenplay makes awkward segues into the verse format of Ntozake Shange's original text, but the Perry devotees at the Ziegfeld didn't seem to mind. Perry makes soap opera dramas, and like that format, his work operates under the guise of something far more serious than what it is. He's a consummate showman more than a filmmaker...but, boy, does he know how to put on a good show.

On the way home from the "Colored Girls" screening, a close companion and I engaged in a lengthy debate about the value of the work. Does Perry's artificial style reflect a post-modern touch, whether or not his audience sees it that way? I say sometimes, and certainly in this case. And do the superficial production flaws of "For Colored Girls" matter less than its success at bringing a neglected Broadway hit to an audience that would otherwise never get a chance to see it? I say not a chance. It just makes you think about the potential of this material in the hands of better director. But that's just me; once the Perry fans have spoken, few other voices will be heard.

Here's the trailer, which has almost all the best parts, save for a few other scenes featuring a wrathful Whoopi Goldberg:

This article is related to: New Releases