Say ‘No!’ to This Color Purple Angry Women’s song “Hell, No!” The film-musical adaptation of The Color Purple seeks a hostile reaction from audiences that is unlike Alice Walker’s original novel or Steven Spielberg’s wonderful 1985 classic film. This new version is produced by Oprah Winfrey in line with the opportunism of Black Lives Matter and vindictive #MeToo feminism.
Celie discovers her own capacity for sexual pleasure through shag, even before the two have sex. Shug encourages Celie to explore herself sexually, and helps her supervise when Celie examines her vagina in the mirror.
Shug stays with Celie as she faces additional turmoil. When Celie discovers that Mister has been hiding letters from her sister, Shug sticks up for Celie and encourages her to find agency through making and wearing pants.
In Bazawule’s version, Celie’s decision to start selling pants is a pivot in which she stumbles after receiving an inheritance from her biological father. But Walker’s actual text is accurate: the decision to wear and sew the garment itself is a strange act of resistance, inspired by Shag in the face of Mister’s tyranny.
The issue goes deeper than the depiction of “filth” anyway, affecting the overall pace of the film and the transitions between action and music. Another theory, understood by musical theater lovers, suggests that dialogue becomes song when words are not enough, and song gives way to dance when lyrics don’t cut it. Some songs arrive prematurely, before the scenes can generate any emotional resonance – for one, “She’ll Be Mine”, a song sung by young Celie about the loss of her children. Still others end suddenly just as the song begins to speed up, such as Harpo’s inspirational build-a-house number “Workin'”. (Hawkins is another standout in this ridiculously assembled cast.)
Halle Bailey is charismatic as Nettie, just as she was in The Little Mermaid
The director, Blitz Bazawule, a musician and filmmaker, announces his blend of genres from the beginning. Celie (Phylicia Pearl Mapsey) is 14 years old and pregnant with her father’s child, the second child she will soon give up for adoption. She and her sister, Nettie (Hailey Bailey), are sitting in a tree singing, but almost immediately the entire screen erupts in song. Against the dusty backdrop of a small rural town, men and women in bright colors sing a gospel song, and dance their way into a church. Bazwule is the co-director of Beyoncé’s Black Is King filmed album, and the women’s choreography and chorus here mirrors her video.
The beginning and end of the film are as euphoric as the opening and closing numbers of Broadway, and the film never goes long without a song supported by superb orchestration. But there’s also kinetic camerawork that follows the actors, and enough overhead shots that it seems as if Bazwule wants to prove that he’s making a movie, not filming a stage show.