Developing a sense of self, particularly when having endured a traumatising life journey brings with it a sense of pride. The trials and tribulations endured seeming never ending when experienced, the bonds we form and the choices we make amongst this claustrophobic backdrop the much needed difference between a life of pain or a life of hope. Originally published in 1982, and winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1983, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple has gone onto become a real source of hope snd inspiration to women within hostile situations. 40 years on, the original film adaptation is reimagined for a 2023 audience, writers Alice Walker, Marsha Norman and Marcus Gardley penning the modern classic, which director Blitz Bazawule validates with an authentic visual eye.
Each other’s emotional rock in the face of hardship, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi’s young Celia and Halle Bailey’s young Nettie show a resilience to be admired. Mpari’s meek Celia empowered by Bailey’s playful Nettie. Viciously torn apart by the gruesome reality of marriage at a young age, the girls encounter scenarios thereafter that shape perception. Nettie – confined to a life of being a nanny to a wealthy family abroad, Celia (now Fantasia Barrino) confined to a marriage with narcissistic husband Albert ‘Mister’ Johnson (Colman Domingo) who weakens at the knees at the sight of fellow wounded soul, performer Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson) a coquettish, confident, unapologetic presence who he happily entertains at the expense of Celie’s spirit.
The Color Purple sensitively addresses the book’s difficult themes well, these young black women given the space to have their stories platformed, and this is empowering and important to see. Alice Walker, Marsha Norman and Marcus Gardley craft a fresh, endearing, human piece of art – adding a dimension to the original screenplay and considering the story is set in early 20th century America, successfully places itself in the ‘now’. Director Blitz Bazawule balances both the heavy and the lighthearted well, this easily becoming a depressing story if not handled well, however Bazawule skilfully prizing out the ups and downs of each woman’s life journey, giving the musical film much needed heart. Musical numbers are interweaved beautifully to validate circumstances and therefore feel necessary, they give this film a soulfulness that become a force all of their own.
A tale of sisterhood that I hope offers salvation to anyone perhaps going through difficult times presently – a beacon of hope,
Written by Lucy Basaba.
The Color Purple will screen nationwide from Friday 26th January 2024 – check local listings to book!