The Color Purple Blends Music, Dance, And Drama To Form An Emotional Journey

Having never had the privilege of watching the highly-acclaimed stage musical this movie is based on, I walked into our advanced screening with high expectations, simply from knowing who was cast in this theatrical release. I was looking forward to seeing Halle Bailey in another singing role after loving how she brought Ariel to life in The Little Mermaid. I already knew Fantasia Barrino had that voice that makes anything she sings a gospel song, and I had glimpses of Danielle Brooks’ brilliance in Orange is the New Black. After Empire and Hidden Numbers, I also knew Taraji P. Henson would bring her signature magic to her role.

With the first notes sung by Halle Bailey and Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, who play Nettie and Celie, a big smile grew on my face and returned many times throughout the movie, when I wasn’t laughing or crying over other scenes.

If you’re familiar with the book and the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg, who produced this one with Quincy Jones, you know that the story is set in the South during the early 1900s. A homely but sweet young woman who suffered at the hands of her widowed father, Celie is given away to a man she calls Mister, played by Colman Domingo, who needs a wife to tend to him and his children. Nettie, the prettier of the two sisters, eventually follows Celie after their father turns his unwanted attention on her. But for Nettie, it was like jumping from the fire to the frying pan when she had to ward off Mister’s advances as well. He drives off Nettie for refusing him, leaving Celie alone to face a life of servitude to an abusive husband.

Years have passed when Celie’s stepson Harpo opens a juke joint and invites Shuge Avery, a sultry jazz singer played by Henson, to perform. Shuge stays with Celie and Mister and Celie and Shuge form an unlikely friendship and later an alliance. With Shuge’s support, as well as the support of her confident, no-nonsense stepdaughter-in-law Sofia, played perfectly by Danielle Brooks, Celie finds the sisterhood she’s longed for since losing Nettie and draws enough strength from it to survive and thrive.

I’d be remiss in not mentioning that most if not all of the songs were written by Brenda Russell. Those who grew up on 90’s music may remember her from her Piano in the Dark song and as the original singer of Get Here & If Only For One Night. I’m not sure if the smile that took over my face with the first song was because of the song itself or just the beautiful voices of Bailey and Mpasi. There were a few more songs that made me smile, one that made me laugh out loud, and a couple that made me cry. This movie has an incredible cast and tells a difficult story well. I was not at all surprised by Fantasia’s musical performances, but I was not ready to be so emotionally compromised by her acting. Henson and Corey Hawkins (Harpo) were also great in their roles and musical numbers but Danielle Brooks’ Sofia stole the show for me. She definitely won my respect.

With so many gifted performers, John Batiste and H.E.R., were mere window dressing. If you’re looking forward to watching The Color Purple you will NOT be disappointed. I went in with high expectations that were exceeded and left grateful to have experienced this movie.

5 out of 5 stars