Putting colour or gender aside for a moment, here are some facts to mull over before deciding whether Ntozake Shange’s blend of poetry, prose, dance and male-bashing drama is for you.
The full title of her Tony-winning stage play is ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf’. Theatrical types refer it as a ‘choreopoem’. This screen adaptation is by a comedian best known for playing a gun-toting granny called Madea.
And while Tyler Perry’s films frequently top the US charts, they barely put a dent in DVD shelves over here. Of course, that may be down to his particularly African-American worldview. But his critics are legion – with Spike Lee chief among them.
Still, you’ve got to give a man credit for trying something different. And to be fair, the initial signs are promising.
Centring on a run-down New York apartment block, Perry introduces us to his damsels in varying states of distress.
Kimberly Elise is a young mother living in fear of her war-traumatised boyfriend (Michael Ealy). The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad plays the concerned neighbour who brings social worker Kerry Washington to their door.
Across the hall, Thandie Newton’s angry nymphomaniac treats everyone with contempt, including her religious nut mother (Goldberg) and teenage sister (Tessa Thompson) who live downstairs.
Living outside the block but somehow connected to the women within are a bitchy magazine editor (Jackson), a trusting dance teacher (Anika Noni Rose, Dreamgirls), and a big-hearted community nurse (Loretta Devine).
Each has troubling issues with one common factor: men. And never are we allowed to forget it as anyone with a Y chromosome is portrayed as some sort of user, abuser, weakling or betrayer.
It’s not the first film to portray menfolk in a dim light. What kills it is Perry’s ludicrous change in tone.
Because after a considered first hour, it’s like he’s suddenly possessed by a hysterical she-demon.
Within minutes, even-handedness and restraint are swept away by an avalanche of melodrama. Poetry that was earlier blended so carefully into the narrative becomes a barrage of tear-soaked, anti-male sentiment.
Honestly, so thickly does Perry lay on the sanctimony and self-pity, you begin to wonder if it’s all a spoof. Stick a Wayans brother in there and you could call it Tragic Movie.
But even the uniformly fine performances (Newton and Goldberg are particularly good while Macy Gray makes a scarily effective backstreet abortionist) can't prevent it from feeling like an eternity.
You don't have to be a colored girl to know when enuf is enuf.
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