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   THE COLOR PURPLE (1985) 

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CAST
Danny Glover
Whoopi Goldberg
Margaret Avery
Oprah Winfrey
Willard E. Pugh
Akosua Busia
Laurence Fishburne
Desreta Jackson
Leonard Jackson
Carl Anderson

DIRECTED BY
Steven Spielberg

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack



The Novel




Time: 152 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama

Academy Award nominations for Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Score, Song, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.


Though I'm a big fan of Spielberg's I just never seemed to get around to watching this film. It certainly wasn't the kind of movie I was paying to see when it was first released and the subject matter doesn't lend itself to light afternoon viewing. I also have to admit that I wasn't sure he could pull it off. He's a great director when it comes to action adventure, but he can be a little too heavy handed with serious dramas. However, the film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards so I figured it had to be fairly worthwhile. Plus, with a cast like this I had a feeling it was going to be interesting. People tend to dismiss Goldberg and Winfrey as lightweights, but they wouldn't if they had seen this movie. They are both tremendous. I hated Danny Glover with every fiber of my being, which just goes to show how good he is. I don't think I ever wanted a screen character to meet a bad end more than his Albert.

Not an easy film to sit through, the trials and tribulations of 14-year-old Celie's (Goldburg) life grab you from the get go as you watch her give birth to a son, fathered by her own daddy. Things don't get better from there. Though the one thing she knows she can count on is the undying love of her younger sister Nettie (Busia). Unfortunately for Nettie, she's extremely pretty and has caught the eye of some of the local gentlemen, as well as her own father. When Albert (Glover) asks their father for Nettie's hand – his wife recently died leaving a messy house and unruly children – he is soundly refused. He's not good enough for Nettie, who's still too young, but he can have Celie. Albert's displeased to be getting the ugly sister, but he desperately needs a new mother for his wild children. Celie's already been beaten down by life and accepts her new lot in life. As far as she's concerned, it doesn't really matter which house she has to clean or what man is pumping away on top of her.


"The jail you plan for me is the one you're gonna rot in."

With her gone, their father turns to Nettie to service his needs. Rather than succumb, she runs away to live with Albert and Celie. Of course, that's just jumping from the frying pan to the fire. When she soundly and embarassingly rejects Albert's advances he throws her out, banishing her for life, eliminating the only loving presence from Celie's life. She swears she'll write to Celie – she taught her how to read – that only death will keep them apart, but only Albert is allowed to collect the mail and Celie is left all alone without any hope. As the years go by, Celie learns to handle Albert's moods and even provides a decent home life. Not that he would notice. It's no secret to anyone that Albert has been having a longstanding affair with a noted lounge singer Shug Avery (Avery), which doesn't bother Celie one bit. It actually gets him out of the house, which is a blessing.

When Albert's son Harpo (Pugh) knocks up Sofia (Winfrey), a headstrong local girl, Albert initially refuses to allow him to marry her. However, that edict doesn't last very long and the two are soon living on the farm breeding a family. Sofia doesn't allow anyone to push her around and the fights between her and Harpo are known all over the neighborhood. Sofia's temper is legendary and she moves out after Harpo strikes her. She's fought too hard to keep men off her all her life and is not going to stand to be beaten by anyone, not even her husband. In the end, her temper gets her thrown into prison for speaking ill to a white woman. When she gets out years later, she's lost everything and is forced to work as a maid for the woman she insulted. The sudden arrival of Shug Avery into their home, becomes a blessing in disguise for Celie. Shug not only befriends Celie, but helps her uncover her own beauty and sexuality. It is Shug who finally helps Celie discover what happened to Nettie and to take a stand against Albert. Celie's dream to be reunited with her sister and her children finally comes true one sunny summer day.

There's much more to this epic tale of survival, but I'd be writing for days if I tried to explain it all. This is a story full of love, anger, despair, friendship and forgiveness. It is at times so difficult to watch I can only thank God it had a happy ending. It seems kind of trite to have it all work out in the end, until you stop to consider everything this woman endured to finally gain some happiness in her life. Then it seems damn unfair to have her suffer so long and miss so much. Everyone in this film learns a hard lesson or must face up to their past sins. Some of them are forgiven and go on to live better lives. Others end up wallowing in their own garbage. I personally don't think Albert suffered enough. Though a product of his own misguided and mean-spirited upbringing, that's not a good enough reason to be such a complete bastard. It's clear after so many years of being slaves to other men, the men were going to be damn sure they were the masters of their own domains. There was no love, just control.

Glover is so fierce and demanding, I would have been terrified to my shoes to have to share a house with him. This is definitely one of the most amazing performances of his career. Though no one wants to be remembered for playing a bastard. It just goes to show that given the right role Oprah can be an amazing actress. Sofia is loving, funny and fierce. This is a woman who has fought hard to be respected. Her performance gets even better after her character is released from prison. Your heart will break for what's become of this once vibrant woman. The tour de force of the film is Goldberg's portrayal of the obedient, but secretly rebellious Celie. It is her quiet performance that keeps the film together, her yearning for knowledge of her beloved sister and the freedom of a life without men. The music, art direction and costume designs are wonderfully vibrant and evocative of time and place.

Spielberg's subtle direction, letting the story take precedence, gives the film a simple power that is undeniable. He tries to stay objective, which keeps the film from being too sappy or manipulative. By the end, Celie isn't the only one praying to be reunited. The audience will accept nothing less for a woman, a friend who has suffered so much, yet triumphed over adversity, finding her voice and giving life to her dreams. THE COLOR PURPLE is a powerful film that showcases the brilliance yet to come from Spielberg in SCHINDLER'S LIST. Not many film maker's could have directed such divergent, yet amazing, films like THE COLOR PURPLE and JURASSIC PARK. When he's on his game and truly cares about his subject, there's no better storyteller on the planet. If you've never seen this film, you should. I'm only sorry I waited so long.



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