Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Color Purple Review: A Heartwrenching, Uplifting Experience

The second cinematic adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel is arriving in theaters. The first time we saw Celie, Shug, and Sofia on the big screen was in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie. Now, we have The Color Purple, adapting the Broadway musical into a cinematic event unlike any other. This movie combines powerful harmonies and breathtaking dance numbers to create the best musical of the year. It serves as a showcase for the musical talents of every performer on screen while telling a rich, emotional story you won’t find anywhere else.

This movie is directed by Blitz Bazawule, who previously helmed critically acclaimed films like The Burial of Kojo and Black Is King. His third movie is likely his biggest project yet, and he shows all the promise of cementing himself as a household name in the Hollywood sphere. To put it simply, he nailed it. He understood how to bring a musical to life, translating it from the stage to the screen with grace. Bazawule manages to capture the perfect energy with these performers, using their vocals and the water in a scene to create something wonderful.

The Color Purple begins with a young Celie getting separated from her sister, Nettie. Celie is forced to marry Albert “Mister” Johnson (Colman Domingo) in a troubled, abusive relationship. It’s a tragic film with heavy subject matter surrounding physical and sexual abuse, along with the racism that black people went through during the early 1900s. Screenwriter Marcus Gardley expertly weaves through all of these dark moments that can be genuinely hard to watch without making the tonal shifts to the musical numbers feel jarring. It’s not the first story that you would expect to be adapted into a musical, but much like the Broadway show, it continuously proves its meaningful, valuable existence as an empowering work of art.

How amazing is it to see a beautifully feminist tale on the big screen? It’s a tear-jerking celebration of black women and the struggles they have faced for years. Bazawule captures a wide scope with both energetic sequences of music and dark, scarier moments of abuse, prejudice, and pain. It’s the perfect combination of Bazawule’s direction, fantastic songwriting and screenwriting, Dan Lausten’s breathtaking-as-usual cinematography with colors that pop off of the screen, and a sound design that brings the story to life perfectly.

The performances here are superb across the board. The big ticket here is Fantasia Barrino, who makes her feature film debut in this film. Having seen her performance here, I never would have guessed that this was her first time. She portrays Celia perfectly at many stages in her life, showcasing her power and ferocity that exists alongside her vulnerability. She is layered, tragic, and captivating to watch. Taraji P. Henson has been giving wonderful performances in films and TV for years, and she handles all her scenes as Shug Avery. She’s one of those characters who you wait to return to the screen, as she not only makes the movie better, but she also means a lot to our protagonist, Celia.

But the person in this cast who consistently blew me away was Danielle Brooks as Sofia. Sofia is sure to be a fan-favorite character among audiences. She brings a magnetic vibrance to the film, and there are scenes where every single line she has is absolute gold. Above all the sadness in this film, there is a sense of humor throughout, and we can thank Brooks for supplying a lot of that. But she’s not just the comic relief character there to tell jokes—she gets her phenomenal musical number in “Hell No!” and there are many scenes that are extremely challenging for an actor to pull off on the page. Brooks does everything right in this film, and she deserves a Best Supporting Actress nod for this one.

Another standout in this cast is Colman Domingo, who has been enjoying the spotlight as of late, promoting both this movie and Rustin during the awards season. It wasn’t until his recent role in Euphoria that I discovered what a marvelous actor this man is and how many movies I’ve seen him in and not noticed. He deserves every bit of recognition he has been getting, playing the villainous Mister wonderfully. His character is a monster who you hate, but Domingo never portrays him with that intention. He approaches the character like a flawed human being, which is the correct way to add nuance to a character that everyone who watches the film should be rooting against.

The Color Purple cements itself as the spellbinding musical event of the year. The supporting cast includes more modern movie musical alums like Corey Hawkins (In the Heights) and Halle Bailey (The Little Mermaid). There is no weak link in a film that hits every beat it should. The only issue is that a few of the songs are less memorable and can easily be overshadowed by others, such as “I’m Here,” a showstopping highlight in the film. The film balances the tone between humor and heartbreak while providing a truly special experience that will have you applauding, laughing, and wincing.

SCORE: 9/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 9 equates to “Excellent.” Entertainment that reaches this level is at the top of its type. The gold standard that every creator aims to reach.

Disclosure: ComingSoon attended a press screening for our The Color Purple review.

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