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Taking Another Look at 'For Colored Girls'

by Abdul Ali
February 26, 2013 4:57 PM
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Lionsgate 'For Colored Girls'

Not too long ago, director Tyler Perry became a target for criticism after deciding to adapt Ntzoke Shange’s seminal genre-bending 1975 choreopoem "For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf" to screen. (I must admit that I too, was among that chorus of skeptics.)

That said, it’s not every day that a film comes along that strives to bring the force of poetry to the silver screen as a call-to-arms to women of color to take better care of themselves and to find their own voice.

The primarily female, high-profile cast of "For Colored Girls" includes Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Divine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopi Goldberg, and Macy Gray.

Of the nine actresses and their performances, I was especially struck by the quietly nuanced acting of Kimberly Elise (whom I had the privilege of talking with about this film), Whoopi Goldberg, and Macy Gray. Elise told me that the best part of the film, for her, was that it provided a way for her to be in contact with women whose work she'd always admired: "Being in this film gave us access to each other."

For Colored Girls will air on Xfinity on Demand. Here’s the trailer:

Who was your favorite character in "For Colored Girls"? And, in your opinion, was this adaptation successful?

Editor’s Note: Throughout Black History Month and beyond, Shadow and Act will partner with XFINITY to celebrate Black entertainment. XFINITY is creating a unique digital community built around the love of Black entertainment at Shadow and Act hopes to enrich this community and provide a launching pad for insightful discussion. Look to Shadow and Act for features and content examining and exploring key themes and topics that run throughout the history of Black entertainment.

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  • Marie | February 27, 2013 11:49 AMReply

    I think this is Perry's best film and that's coming from someone who thinks his work is amateurish dreck. He deserves credit for stepping out of his comfort zone and taking on a challenge. It was the best shot of all of his films and Macy Gray and Tessa Thompson gave stand out performances. Elise is a good actress but I always feel like I'm seeing her act as opposed to her becoming a character. The others were good except Goldberg who was laughable. I remember snickering at one of her over-the-top moments that was supposed to be serious. But overall, I agree with a (black) reviewer who suggested that the film required more "creative sweat." The poetic language and the naturalistic visuals didn't quite mesh but with deeper consideration and effort, there may have been a better way to combine the two. The problem I have with Perry's work, a problem that his hardcore fans refuse to acknowledge, is that his prolificness undermines the quality. There was a surprisingly short gap between the announcement of this project and it's arrival in theaters which I saw as a bad sign. How is it possible to take something as complex as this material and make it a successful film in a short period? Answer: it isn't possible without undermining quality. I appreciate that Perry employs lots of black talent. But is being employed in low quality projects beneficial to the actors and to the audience? I would argue that, in the long run, it's not. Pixar spends four years working on each of their films and they've had an unprecedented 10 (11?) consecutive successful films that are models of excellent storytelling. I would humbly suggest that Perry look to that studio as a model by delegating more of his projects and devoting more creative sweat to each project.

  • willie dynamite | February 27, 2013 12:38 PM

    Yes Marie, you are absolutely correct. He was writing his next madea film on the set of FCG and was shooting it while he was editing FCG. TP puts out content like a factory. Had he put more focus on this project I am sure that it would have been a much better film. Another note, the real film we will never see because it is on the editing room floor. Those actors all put in some serious work. Creative sweat was required to allow that to be shown. TP nor his editor did not invest the time. But I must disagree with you, Kimberly Elise is a beast of an actress.

  • CareyCarey | February 27, 2013 9:48 AMReply

    " If certain people would remove their anti-Tyler biases, they would see how Ntzoke's poetry used as dialogue actually worked remarkably well in the film"... " Hollywood ignores us or designates us to the sidekick role. I had a chance to see a movie with six fabulous black women"

    In my opinion, those are the most significant comments in this thread. And this deserves a deep examination-->"the film was an utter disappointment".

    I am reminded of a comment by the S&A visitor, Traci R. --> "I quite admire fanatical TP followers whose logic about why they like him steers far away from the intellectual pontification that "critical" film watchers give to describe and defend their film choices (i.e. present a case that shows that their tastes are less shame-inducing than the taste of others). It's called taste for a reason--my flavor ain't always your flavor--and I'm not about to sit up here and defend why I like salty and not sweet."

    Looking at the gist of that comment and those of Pedro's, Langston's and BROWNEYESBLUE, For Colored Girls WAS NOT an utter disappointment. In fact, when I removed my anti-Tyler bias and really listened to BrownEyes' words ("I had a chance to see a movie with six fabulous black women") it comes without question that Tyler Perry has done more for the "voice" of the black woman and the career opportunities of black actresses than any person on this earth.

    Heck, while I was participating in Abdul Ali's post Why Hollywood Needs More (Black) Leading Ladies, I struggled through the dearth of roles by black actresses to find scenes to champion, but several in Tyler's films came to mind, including those in FCG.

    But I've heard the arguments... "Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels are Black dysfunction porn pimp"... "Tyler Perry portrays the black man as an evil usurper of woman." Really?! ... "That damn Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry, they're always throwing that mess in our face." Wrong, the mess (whatever mess) was already in our face.

    Listen, personally I do not think Tyler Perry is a "great" director. Nor do I believe FCG was worthy of an Oscar. However, I agree with Langston--> "it was far from a creative flop."

  • Me | February 27, 2013 7:22 PM

    Ok, mommy. More dicks to suck, I understand. You and granny are just alike! No time for your chilluns, but nothing but time for TP and his..."friends."

  • CC | February 27, 2013 7:12 PM

    I'm done with you Mister Me. You lines are getting so weak, I feel like I'm hitting a midget with a brick. Your arms are too short to box with...

  • Me | February 27, 2013 7:03 PM

    Silly mommy, you don't know who daddy is! You and g-ma open up them legs for two nickels and a loose cigarette! I thought you was doing better for yourself, taking it from Tyler but I guess it's true: you just can't save these hoes, not even your own Mama CC. RIP Moms Carey, RIP Grandmoms Carey. You both lived and died by the diseased dick. Sad.

  • CC | February 27, 2013 6:54 PM

    NOPE... it really ain't so. You have it twisted, convoluted... all fked up. W-w-what had happened is yo real daddy thought he left you on the wall of a toilet stall. But miraculously, you survived. And since you shared your harrowing escape on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, I just happen to see your pint size ass.

    So although your eyes may shine and yo teeth may grin, we all know the history of you and yo momma's biggest sins. So, shoo fly, don't bother me, shoo fly, don't bother me, shoo fly, don't bother me, for you belong to somebody, but not me.

  • Me | February 27, 2013 6:13 PM're telling me that YOU'RE my momma? Is that why you call me Mini-Me? Did you inherit your scuzzy, whorish behavior from your diseased waste of a mother? Does that mean I'll inherit it, too? Say it ain't so, Mom! Say it ain't so! I think the only solution is a suicide pact. You go first. Ou, also, you asked me to tell you to stop sucking the pink part of those tricks maybe stop doing that, okay? At least make a few nickels slobbing Perry's knob before you kill yourself so we can bury you properly. I'm so glad we had this time to get to know each other before you passed on. Say hi to grandma in hell!

  • CC | February 27, 2013 6:01 PM

    I don't know Mini-Me, ask yo momma. I hate to talk about your mother b/c I know she's a good ol' soul with a 3 dollar P**** and a rubber asshole, but enlighted us! Tell her to stop sucking the pink part of those tricks booty-holes and step to the mic. Inquiring minds want to know all the nasty truth.

  • Me | February 27, 2013 5:49 PM

    You worship at the altar of Madea's hot grits and gun powder, don't try to change ya tune now? Does his ass really smell like fried fish? His ween taste like cherry cola? Enlighten us! We know how much you love the man and faint at his magnificent talent!!!!!

  • CareyCarey | February 27, 2013 5:44 PM

    Well Mr. Mini-Me, I have to disagree. In fact, to prove my point I have a video (on youtube) of me tearing Tyler a new one.

    youtube title: CareyCarey, "COME ON TYLER PERRY, IT SAID FOR COLORED GIRLS"

  • Me | February 27, 2013 4:50 PM

    Liar. You never had any bias. You love the man. You love him more than he loves Boris Kodjoe, Lance Gross, & Shemar Moore at a nude car wash.

  • PEDRO | February 27, 2013 8:03 AMReply

    Kimberly Elise is, undoubtedly, the most underrated African-American actress right now in Hollywood. Not only she is a beautiful woman, Kimberly Elise is, in my opinion, a rare acting talent. I have been impressed by her range of roles since I saw her performance in "The Manchurian Candidate", starring Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Shreiber, Jon Voight and Vera Farmiga.

    After that, I was mesmerized by her extraordinary acting lesson in "Beloved". She stole the show from Thandie Newton and Oprah Winfrey. I'm looking foward to see "Woman Thou Art Loosed" and "Four Colored Girls".

    By looking to her resume on Imdb, it's shameful to realize that her astounding talent is being wasted in unrelevant films and television shows for the last six years. She definitely deserves more (and better) offers and a status equivalent to the one actresses like Viola Davis, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington or Halle Berry (despite her terrible choices) have achieved. Her dramatic ought to change!

  • Akimbo | February 27, 2013 2:38 AMReply

    I really hate how this movie took the unique stories of the women and turned them into morality plays. That horrible monologue in which Rashad tore down Newton for her "slutty" lifestyle was the most egregious example. The play was never about judging colored women, just about telling their stories. I was also aghast that Perry managed to take all the wind out of the play's most gripping story/moment: Boy Willie dropping the kids. He captured absolutely none of the story's inherent tension or heartbreak. Overall, the film was an utter disappointment. I will never watch it again, would rather reread or see the play again.

  • AI | February 27, 2013 7:30 AM


  • Langston | February 26, 2013 11:58 PMReply

    This film was primarily successful because it featured the largest number of powerful dramatic performances by Actresses of Color, ever, in one film. It was highly flawed, but many "good" films are. If certain people would remove their anti-Tyler biases, they would see how Ntzoke's poetry used as dialogue actually worked remarkably well in the film. Overall, it was far from a creative flop, though it didn't live up to its artistic potential.

  • Bee moore | February 26, 2013 8:24 PMReply

    I think thandie newton was the top performer in this film followed by Anika and Kimberly. It's a shame they weren't recognized for any awards

  • mawon | February 26, 2013 6:59 PMReply

    LOL @ DeeDeee For real, though. This movie sucked. On too many levels to count so let's not discuss this. kthxbye!

  • browneyesblue | February 26, 2013 5:26 PMReply

    My favorite character was The Lady in Red(Janet Jackson) The way that she portrayed such a broken woman was beautiful. I enjoyed the movie because it was a celebration of the black woman's voice. Hollywood ignores us or designates us to the sidekick role. I had a chance to see a movie with six fabulous black women.

  • Deedee | February 26, 2013 5:25 PMReply


  • Jules | February 26, 2013 6:45 PM

    Great post, DeeDee. Can I co-sign?

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