The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple (1985; Warnings–profanity, domesticated violence) is based on Alice Walker’s diary-formatted novel—which I used to own as a kind of sentimental attachment to the movie, although I read less of it than I would have liked—about life for African Americans during the early 1900s in the American South.

In the 1980’s I liked the movie, by instinct. But on viewing it again two years ago, I found I was wanting something more from it.

The film begins with Celie, a teenager at this stage of the story, giving birth to a son and a daughter. The children are a product of incest.

When she is older, Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), is bargained off as the housewife of Albert (Danny Glover).

Albert gets her attend to his many household chores. He would sooner have married Celie’s sister Nettie because she is prettier.

Moments of sisterly kindness. Celie and Nettie take a stroll.

When I looked closely at the first half, The Color Purple is bleak. Manhood and masculinity are equated with aggression and abuse to show who is the boss. Inter-generational sins of the fathers come down to visit the sons and it leaves the women in their lives hurting and fighting for survival. It’s not an easy watch in the first half. which was off-putting.  

Still, in terms of themes, it may appeal intellectually. Life can be ‘blue’ or ‘red’, but in between is how one copes, it’s not flash, but somehow one gets through. It’s the ‘colour purple’.

However, the second half is transcendent. Here’s taking a stand, here’s finding redemption. It’s also about coming to terms with God in a hopeless world.

The Color Purple is rich in characters and performances. Whoopi Goldberg as Celie is outstanding in her subtle and nuanced delivery, Danny Glover is, as always, convincing, playing Albert, Celie’s husband by arrangement. Great support comes in all directions, especially Margaret Avery as a singer who shows Celie affection for the first time and Oprah Winfrey storms her way through her role like a powerhouse.

However, I found the first half oppressively bleak, and the second uninvolving.

3 out of 5 stars

Published 2020,

Published by peteswriting

Peter Veugelaers, Writer/Contributor. Blogger. Independent. Devotions. Reviews. Articles.

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