Composed of a rainbow of colors, emotions and women, 20 poems have been woven together to show the plights of a group of women of color trying to live their lives in a very harsh, unforgiving world. Gilda, the landlady, happens to be the guiding light for the rest of the troubled women. Jo (Red) is a wealthy businesswoman who struggles with the power and wealth she has gained and the ability to trust and care for others. Crystal (Brown) struggles with living in an abusive relationship with no one but Gilda to look after her and her children. Juanita (Green) is trying to support women through a free clinic but struggles with her ability to trust a man who has been unfaithful to her. Tangie (Orange) lives a free, sexual life but struggles with a distant sister, Nyla (Purple), and a judging mother, Alice (White). Nyla has all the talent in the world but is struggling with coming of age. Alice, whose religion holds high in her values, is unable to reconcile the decisions of her daughters. Yasmine (Yellow) feels like life is right where she wants it to be but her trust in the honesty of men leaves her vulnerable to the temptations of the flesh. Kelly (Blue) has personal medical troubles that fight for attention while she serves her role with Child and Family Services and each of her interactions with these other women.
Starring: Kimberly Elise (Crystal), Janet Jackson (Jo), Loretta Devine (Juanita), Thandie Newton (Tangie), Anika Noni Rose (Yasmine), Kerry Washington (Kelly), Tessa Thompson (Nyla), Phylicia Rashad (Gilda), Whoopi Goldberg (Alice), Macy Gray (Rose), Michael Ealy (Beau White), Omari Hardwick (Carl), Richard Lawson (Frank), Hill Harper (Donald), Khalil Kain (Bill)
With so many characters intertwining their stories, the cast is packed with some great talent. Phylicia Rashad (Gilda) pulls the cast together with a sense of caring and cohesiveness in each of her interactions with the other characters. Booming forward with the most powerful poems is Loretta Devine (Green). Each of these strong women add to the colorful rainbow of traumatic experiences, including Kimberly Elise (Brown), Janet Jackson (Red), Thandie Newton (Orange), Anika Noni Rose (Yellow), Kerry Washington (Blue), Tessa Thompson (Purple) and Whoopi Goldberg (White). In addition to the main cast, there is a talented group of supporting players. Macy Gray serves as the jaded abortionist who has become hardened by her experiences in Harlem. The men are set up to be causing more trouble than the women. Michael Early provides a powerful performance as a veteran troubled with his place in life, dealing with an alcohol problem and whose instability threatens the people he loves. Omari Hardwick has a secret he is keeping from his character’s wife which he portrays well through limited dialogue and says more by saying little. Khalil Khan comes off as a decent man but also hides an ulterior motive which both keeps you guessing a bit but also seems to fall into place. Richard Lawson plays a man who seems to crawl back into his lover’s life even though he is unable to be faithful. The only decent man is played by Hill Harper, who, like Rashad’s character, finds himself interacting with many of the traumatic events.
Tyler Perry has a knack for selecting stories with great emotion and with great symbolism. In this film, there are a number of just awful experiences to which these women are subjected. Relationship violence, rape, unwanted pregnancy, objectification, contamination, judgment, and heart-breaking loss. If this film accomplishes anything, it is finding a way to break into your heart and pull you into even just one of these women’s stories. The poetic infusion helps to tell the story through some strong words and phrases. For example, Jo proclaims, “Save your ‘sorry.’ One thing I don’t need are anymore apologies. I got sorry greeting me at the front door. You can keep yours. I don’t know what to do with them… I can’t even… I have to throw some away. I can’t even get to the clothes in my closet for all the sorries. I’m not even sorry about you being sorry.” These poems are sometimes overlaid with an adjacent storyline, generally one concurrently going through its traumatic moment. While Perry can be congratulated for putting together a very intriguing film, it does seem to lack that breakout item to have pushed it into great consideration for cultural impact.
At times, the amount of storylines in action can be a little overwhelming. One such case is when Tangie is screaming at her sister, while Kelly is tending to both Tessa and Crystal. While the scene pulls the focus onto Tangie and Tessa for a short time, events progress so quickly that you find yourself trying to catch up with the story.
One thing that would be easy to overlook is the treatment of the men in the film. While it is not meant to be descriptive as a generalization of black men, all but one of the featured men in the film torture the women they supposedly love. Jo knows early on that Carl has been unfaithful with her but cannot seem to find the proof. Frank is clearly unfaithful with Juanita but she cannot seem to let go so easily and falls prey to his “sorry” attitude. Bill comes off as a gentlemen but truly saw Yasmine as prey for his sexual exploits. Even the many men who interact with Thandie each treat her as an object. It can be very easy to fall prey to the movie’s projection of men as devilish vultures but they are truly more of the catalysts for each woman to experience their life-changing dramatic moments and determine their movement forward, backward or none whatsoever.
To return briefly to the actresses, there are clearly some who shine and others whose performance was stagnated. On the positive side, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine and Anika Noni Rose provide stellar moments of passion and pain. Their monologue provide some of the more gripping moments of the film. Janet Jackson, on the other hand, just comes off stiff. Though her character is meant to be a means and be detached emotionally from her social world, her dramatic moment with her husband feels like she is only giving 30% of herself to the role. This is similar with Thandie Newton, who just seems out of place. Newton was great in ER as a woman with means but struggles to seem like a part of the family and environment and more just like a selfish outcast who is completely irrational (except for the couple quick moments she’s not). Whoopi Goldberg is a strong actress but just comes off crazy and lost rather than devoted and morally torn.
There are many great things about this film but a few elements that are off as well. It has some very gripping moments and makes you think about the experience of these women in comparison to your own experiences.
And this is for colored girls who have considered suicide but are moving to the ends of their own rainbows.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5