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Home > ‘The Color Purple’ (2023): A Review

‘The Color Purple’ (2023): A Review

“The Color Purple” (2023): A Review

A Thrilling Musical with a Heart-Wrenching Story

Warner Bros’ The Color Purple (2023) is a musical drama that tells the heartbreaking story of a young woman when racial tensions were high in the 1920s. Follow Celie, a young Black woman who lives with her sister, Nettie, and abusive stepfather, Alphonso. However, her life is turned upside-down when Alphonso sends her off to marry Albert “Mister” Johnson against her will, who is just as abusive. Through her service as a stay-at-home mom, Celie sets off on a journey of self-empowerment and discovery of sexuality amid the abusive hardships in the rural South.    

A Powerful and Heartbreaking Story

Directed by Blitz Bazawule and based on the epistolary novel by Alice Walker, the film is a faithful adaptation that explores ideas of independence, racial and sexist cultural norms, and the sisterhood of three women who share a powerful, unbreakable bond. Many viewers who conclude it difficult to read Walker’s novel or watch the other adaptations of this tragic tale may find it “easier” to experience this version. In many ways, it is softened by the lively jazz, ragtime, gospel, blues, and African-style musical numbers. These numbers offer a sense of excitement and relief despite the darker tones presented throughout the movie. 

However, that is not to say that the film shies away from powerful and excruciating moments that will tug on the viewers’ heartstrings. The film is not afraid to express the hardships Black women often faced in the South, usually depicted through forced adoptions, family separation, gender stereotypes, and abuse. Additionally, the sistership between Celie and Nettie offers a beautiful story that will have viewers tear up as they face the harsh realities of navigating life independently from each other. Many of these moments are eye-opening and moving for the viewer, emphasizing the importance of family connection and the ability for one to stand up for oneself. 

A Believable and Great Cast of Characters 

One of the best parts of this film was the incredible cast, who did such a phenomenal job portraying each character. Fantasia Barrio delivered a superb performance, displaying very raw expressions and emotion through the lens of Celie. Celie is a character who is raised in an abusive environment, and Barrio presents a believable image through her moments of silence and solemn tones. Perhaps one of the most well-done aspects of her character is her bond with her sister, Nettie, which is shown through how protective Nettie is over Celie and how they are virtually inseparable whenever they are together onscreen. 

Colman Domingo also does a great job of portraying the abusive husband (Albert), constantly raising his voice, beating and interacting with other characters inappropriately, and constantly drowning himself in liquor. Pair his violent nature with Celie’s mellow and standoffish nature, and viewers will sympathize with Celie while feeling nothing but anger toward Albert. Other characters like Sofia, Harpo, and Shug Avery also add a lot of fun and excitement in contrast. Sofia serves as a good foil for Celie, a tough woman who is unafraid of what others think of her. Not only is she a good role model for Celie to help her stand up for herself, but she is also a good best friend character. She is essentially what would happen to Celie if she fought back against her aggressors. Lastly, Harpo and Shug are just plain fun, as Harpo has an insecure personality and Shug is essentially the town’s well-loved celebrity.

“The Color Purple” (2023): A Review
Credits: Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Halle Bailey as Nettie in "The Color Purple" | Image: The Today Show

Earworm-Worthy Music to Listen to

Undoubtedly, the best part of the film is the musical numbers and set design. The film opens with a strong number where the characters are all singing and dancing to lively music around town. But, of course, a musical number is only half as good as the music. The choreography throughout the film helps further the exaggeration of emotion by emphasizing what the characters are feeling in the moment, whether that is through quick and flashy movements to represent happiness or slow and careful strides to demonstrate sorrowful moments. Additionally, these numbers offer a great way to transition from one scene to the next and help liven the atmosphere when something tense or tragic occurred prior. 

Along with the musical numbers, the set designs offer views that are absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking. There are several scenes with long shots displaying wide views of the town and nature. Many of these have colorful plant life surrounding the architecture and characters. They also often include the sun bleeding warm colors onto the surface below. Some musical numbers are shot indoors, usually in extravagant areas like a church or music hall and fun places like an indoor pub. There are also some musical numbers that occur with special effects, often showing characters in dim places with dramatic lighting. These are typically used to allow viewers to have a glimpse inside Celie’s head and how she perceives the world around her.  

Final Rating

Overall, The Color Purple is a powerful coming-of-age story with new and exciting twists not found in the older film adaptations. The movie is filled to the brim with fun and exhilarating music, eye-popping numbers, strong and believable characters, and stunning atmospheres. Viewers who had a hard time connecting with the classic films and the novel may just find this version to be more entertaining and cohesive. While it nearly has a runtime of three hours, all of these elements are so eye-catching that it will feel like it all happens rather quickly. 

Although, that is not to say that the film does not carry its faults. Because this film touches on heavy and historical subjects, it may not be suitable for children and would probably be best to watch with teens and older. Moreover, while many of the numbers are fun and entertaining to watch, there may be just a few too many that glaringly state the obvious about what is happening. However, there are only a few that are like that, as most of the numbers provide the necessary context for a character’s growth and story cohesion. 

The Color Purple is available to watch in theaters now and is rated PG-13. It has a runtime of 2 hours and 21 minutes.

“The Color Purple” (2023): A Review
Credits: Fantasia Barrino as Celie, Danielle Brooks as Sofia, and Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery in "The Color Purple" | Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Color Purple (2023) Official Warner Bros. Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Marc Agbayani's favorite genres to write are fantasy, science fiction, horror, action,n and mystery. His inspiration for writing stems from his love of various forms of pop culture, such as the film series Star Wars by George Lucas and the video game series The Legend of Zelda by Shigeru Miyamoto. In his free time, he enjoys writing, reading, listening to music, going to the gym, and hosting game nights with friends

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Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.