An honest review of The Color Purple, a movie that will change you.

The Color Purple is a story about the power of the sisterhood that's been told in many forms – five to be specific. 

Beginning as Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning 1982 book, Steven Spielberg then turned it into an Oscar-nominated movie, then in 2005 the story inspired a Broadway musical that enjoyed a 2015 revival which won multiple Tony and Grammy Awards.

So yes, it's been a long and winding journey that's brought us to the latest The Color Purple iteration, which – in the vein of Mean Girls – offers a musical-movie based on the musical that was inspired by the film.

To be clear, I'd call it more of a movie with musical sequences – there are plenty of songs, but they're scattered throughout dialogue-driven scenes. 

This revived take is directed by Blitz Bazawule and produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Scott Sanders, and Quincy Jones. Like the novel, the film is set in America's racially segregated South between 1909 and 1947. 

The story follows Celie (Fantasia Barrino), who has to endure unimaginable hardships, abuse and trauma throughout her life, as she's torn away from her children and sister while being sold by her father to a violent and controlling older man named Mister. 

Celie finds solace in a romance with Mister's mistress and sexy jazz singer Shug Avery (Taraji P Henson) and her friendship with the bold and unapologetic Sofia (Danielle Brooks). 

The movie features several actors reprising their roles from the recent Broadway version, such as Barrino and Brooks. 


Watch the trailer for The Color Purple. Post continues after video. 

Video via Warner Bros.

The Color Purple is a stunning musical that will leave you simultaneously infuriated yet moved by its story of how women are unstoppable when they stand together against a culture of misogyny. Black women are the backbone of this film, which is exemplified in the movie's catch-cry 'Hell No!', a defiant feminist anthem performed by the enigmatic Brooks.  

The Orange is the New Black star owns the screen in her role as Sofia, delivering a nuanced performance of a complicated woman who teaches Celie to not take abuse from any man, yet then finds herself brutalised by a racist police system. 

In my preview of the film, Sofia's most iconic comebacks were received with loud applause from the crowd watching which speaks volumes about how this character endeared themselves to every viewer. 

Brooks landed an Oscar nomination for the role, an honour that she deserved in spades. 

Danielle Brooks as Sofia. Image: Warner Bros. 


Barrino and Henson are both perfectly cast in their roles, with Euphoria's Colman Domingo skillfully playing the film's most repulsive character with a surprisingly layered approach. 

Production designer Paul Austerberry and cinematographer Dan Lausten created a cinematic spectacle unlike anything I've seen in recent memory. The film features jaw-dropping, rich and dream-like sprawling scenes of Georgia's oak tress, colourful corn fields, and beaches lining the Atlantic coast – masterfully building Celie's world and inner imaginings. 

Another standout was the flawless dance numbers, with choreographer Fatima Robinson crafting an authentic yet modern trademark by infusing hip-hop, tap, and jazz with injections of African and Jamaican flair.  


I've been a fan of the musical ever since I saw a local production in Melbourne and the songs are truly some of the best Broadway has produced. Tunes like 'Keep It Moving' and 'Push The Button' are catchy as hell, while 'What About Love' and 'Hell No!' will hit straight to the heart.

But the film would be nothing without the song that every fan of the Broadway musical came for. 'I'm Here' is Celie's penultimate song which encapsulates the hardships she's had to overcome throughout her life.  

And it was this song that let me down a little, as it was paired with how the queer storyline was underplayed throughout the film. 

I'm not talking about Barrino's performance, which was a stunning-albeit-more-joyous take compared to Broadway icon Cynthia Erivo's more pain-filled anthem. 

It was the lead-up to the song that saw the film's narrative veer substantially from the musical. 

In the Broadway musical, Celie and Shug's romantic relationship takes centre stage. However, the new film only touches on it in a couple of brief scenes when the two women share a kiss and wake up in bed together the next morning.

Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Taraji P. Henson as Shug. Image: Warner Bros. 


Their love story is left unfinished after Shug marries a wealthy man. 

In the musical, Shug breaks Celie's heart by leaving her for another man after stringing her along for years. 

It's after this heartbreak that Celie sings "I don't need you to love me, I don't need you to love," and then belts out 'I'm Here', which in the aftermath of another blow to her self-esteem becomes a hymn of self-love in the face of rejection – it's brutal but inescapably human. 

But in the new movie, 'I'm Here' carries a completely different message as it follows Celie finding out her long-lost sister is alive. 

It still works as a song of triumph, but it's hard not to see the softening of the lesbian storyline as losing an important side of the original book, which follows Steven Spielberg almost completely omitting the queer narrative in his 1985 film. 


This is not just a story of Black women finding strength in each other –  it's about Black women finding love with each other. 

In response to the expected criticism, producer Scott Sanders said "there was nothing intentional to soften the relationship and, quite frankly, we thought we did a beautiful job with it," he told the LA Times

"We show that they kissed, that they were romantic, that they slept together at least once. But how many scenes do you want to keep going back to the bedroom?”

Queer viewers who seldomly see themselves represented on screen – let alone in a multi-million dollar musical – might have something to say about that. Given the 1982 novel was plagued by book bans for depicting homosexuality, it felt odd to shy away from the subject in a modern film when queer Black stories have never been more important to share. 

All this being said, my view was informed by the musical but going into the film with a fresh perspective, viewers won't be disappointed by this epic film. It's a must-see for fans of musicals. 

The Color Purple is a moving movie-musical that is visually spectacular in scope and is one version of Walker's coming-of-age story that is worth watching and rewatching for generations to come. 

The Colour Purple is in cinemas now, it is rated M.

Feature image: Warner Bros. 

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