For Colored Girls
|For Colored Girls|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tyler Perry|
|Produced by||Tyler Perry|
|Screenplay by||Tyler Perry|
|Based on||for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf
by Ntozake Shange
|Music by||Aaron Zigman|
|Edited by||Maysie Hoy|
|Box office||$38 million|
For Colored Girls is a 2010 American drama film adapted from Ntozake Shange's 1975 stage play for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. Written, directed and produced by Tyler Perry, the film features an ensemble cast which includes Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashād, Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, and Kerry Washington.
Like Shange's play—which is considered to be a landmark piece in African American literature and black feminism—the film depicts the interconnected lives of nine women, exploring their lives and struggles as women of color. It is the first film to be produced by 34th Street Films, an imprint of Tyler Perry Studios, and distributed by Lionsgate Films. It is also the first and only R-rated film, to date in the series. With a budget of $21 million, For Colored Girls was released on November 5, 2010, grossing $20.1 million in its opening weekend.
Retaining the play's poetic style, the film's lead cast consists of nine African-American women, seven of whom are based on the play's seven characters, only known by color (e.g. "lady in red," "lady in brown," "lady in yellow,"). Like its source material, each character deals with a different personal conflict, such as love, abandonment, rape, infidelity, and abortion.
With generally mixed reviews, several critics have asserted that Tyler Perry failed to adequately translate the original stage play to film, while more supportive critics describe the film as his finest work to-date. Shange noted her apprehension in allowing Perry to adapt her work, but was ultimately supportive of the film.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (February 2015)|
Each woman is represented by a color: Jo Bradmore represents red, Tangie Adrose represents orange, Yasmine represents yellow, Juanita Sims represents green, Kelly Watkins represents blue, Nyla Adrose represents purple, and Crystal Wallace represents brown. Additionally, the characters of Alice Adrose, who represents white, and Gilda, who does not represent a color, were made specifically for the film.
The film opens with the nine main characters reciting a poem of their inner thoughts ("Dark Phrases"). Kelly arrives at Tangie's brownstone to see Crystal about the safety of her children. At that time, Juanita arrives to leave her lover, Frank, a potted plant and telling him that she is breaking off their affair ("No Assistance"). Kelly attempts to speak with Crystal's children on how they ended up in the hospital, but is unsuccessful when Crystal's alcoholic, veteran husband, Beau Willie, kicks her out. Crystal's nosy neighbor and apartment manager, Gilda, informs Kelly of Crystal's situation ("A Night with Beau Willie Brown") and reveals she was the one who called her. Meanwhile, Alice, Tangie's mother, shows up to beseech Tangie for money, but gets rebuffed instead.
Alice goes out to raise money, and encounters Yasmine, who gives her a little money. Yasmine is boasting to the girls in her dance class about Bill, a man she met on the subway, and agrees to a date, despite her initial hesitance. One of Yasmine's dance students, Nyla, is talking with the girls about her graduation night and losing her virginity ("Graduation Nite"), and later begins to vomit. Meanwhile, Kelly's husband, Donald, and his partner Renee arrest two men performing oral sex in public.
Juanita is waiting in Jo's office at Robe Rouge, a fictional magazine company. Crystal shows up for work, having been running late and informs Jo that her 9 o'clock appointment has arrived, despite it already being 10 o'clock. Juanita is then allowed in to interest Jo in giving some money to a non-profit organization that specializes in women's health care, but is rudely rebuffed.
Kelly is with Donald at the gynecologist, who informs Kelly that she cannot have children due to scarring in her fallopian tubes caused by an untreated STD. So, Kelly runs off without an explanation. Juanita is at the hospital giving advice on safe sex to women when Frank comes along to ask for forgiveness, but Juanita refuses to give in to his advances. Tangie, who works as a bartender, finds a married man on business and offers to show him a "good time." That same night, Crystal implores Beau Willie to stop drinking, while he only cares about marrying her to increase his welfare benefits. At a restaurant, Jo leaves a voice message on her husband's, Carl, phone, imploring him to call her.
At that same restaurant, Yasmine and Bill have a magical date night together, recalling a story about her love for Latin dances ("Now I Love Somebody More Than"). Alice comes home to her apartment and it's revealed that Nyla is Alice's daughter and Tangie's sister. Alice gives Nyla the feeble amount of money she made, under the belief that it's for Nyla's college application fees. Meanwhile, Yasmine is walking home from her date with Bill, explaining that she loved dance more than anything until she met Bill ("Now I Love Somebody More Than" cont.).
Tangie takes the married man home with her to sleep with him, but angrily kicks him out after she learns that he thought she was a prostitute. Nyla shows up to ask Tangie for money, explaining that she needs it for college, but Tangie is not fooled. She then deduces that Nyla is pregnant, but Nyla denies this. Tangie relishes in the fact that Nyla isn't so perfect after all and that Alice will hate her the way she hates Tangie. She then tells her about the time she got pregnant and reveals where to find a back-alley abortionist.
Jo waits impatiently for Carl to return home and it's then revealed that Carl was the man Donald had arrested earlier. The couple then get into an argument about Carl investing into a failed company with Jo's money, which Carl did because he felt emasculated as a man, who is not providing and forfeiting his right to do anything in favor of submitting to Jo's will. Donald returns to his and Kelly's apartment where Kelly then reveals how she got her STD. She explains that long before she was married, she and two of her friends had been seeing the same man and all contracted a disease from him ("Pyramid"). Despite this, Donald reveals that he still loves Kelly regardless of her condition. Juanita drives home to see Frank waiting for her on the stoop. He seduces her into letting him stay at her apartment.
The next day, Jo receives flowers from Carl and calls him to thank him. He reveals that he got tickets to the opera, which he hates, as an apology for last night's argument. During this conversation, he is clearly looking at other men desiringly. Yasmine also receives flowers, from Bill, and is visited by Tangie, who came by to pay the three hundred dollars for Nyla's college fees. She rudely informs Yasmine that Bill only wants to "fuck her," then offers to pay for Nyla's fees, but Yasmine reveals that the dance class is free.
Tangie realizes that Nyla went to see the abortionist, Rose (Macy Gray), who is terrifying, and probably drunk. Nyla's mind completely goes blank during the abortion as Rose tells her of a story about her life in Harlem ("I Used to Live in the World"). Yasmine excitedly invites Bill into her home for dinner. After some light flirting and some drinking, Bill removes his clothing and savagely rapes her. Jo and her husband are at the opera, watching a performance of La Donna in Viola (an Italian, operatic version of "Pyramid"). During the performance, Jo watches as her husband gives another man the eye.
The next day, Jo informs Crystal that she does not have her list of advertisers in her folder and has a very important meeting soon. Crystal offers to take the train to her building, but Jo tells her that'll waste time and offers to drive her there in her limo. Seeing the male driver in the car, Beau Willie believes Crystal is having an affair and the abuse begins, which can be heard in Gilda's house as she watches the kids. She tries to calm their fears by telling them a story about how she met her first husband ("Toussaint").
Beau Willie takes the children from Gilda's to show that he can be a good father and asks Crystal to marry him once again. After she refuses, Beau Willie becomes violent and dangles the children over the fifth-story window, giving Crystal an ultimatum. Gilda frantically runs out into the street and screams for help as Jo, Juanita and several on-lookers witness Beau Willie drop the children to their death ("A Night with Beau Willie Brown" cont.).
Donald interrogates Yasmine at the hospital on her rape, where he informs her that it'll be difficult to press charges as she tells him that women can be raped anywhere by anyone ("Latent Rapists"). At the same hospital, Alice frantically comes in search of Nyla, who passed out in the streets after her abortion. Nyla is being interrogated by Renee and Kelly, and gives them and Alice a vivid detail of her abortion ("Abortion Cycle #1"). Kelly leaves the room to find Crystal screaming in horror at the realization of her children's brutal murder as she is being comforted by Gilda, Jo and Juanita. After being informed of the situation and recognizing Crystal, Kelly becomes visibly upset.
Alice confronts Tangie in her apartment and after a physical altercation, they reveal to each other that Tangie was raped by her grandfather, Alice's father, causing Alice to take her to the abortionist where Alice supervised her, whereas Nyla was unsupervised. Alice reveals that her father took her virginity and was given to a white man at fifteen to have children. All these events explained why Tangie is the way she is ("One" cont.). After kicking Alice out of her apartment, Gilda comes into her house to put ice on the bruise on Tangie's face. She explains that Tangie and mother make a lot of sense before telling her a detailed account of Tangie's exploits ("One" cont.). Tangie believes that Gilda has been snooping again through the wall, but Gilda reveals that she was once like Tangie.
Juanita comes home to find Frank gone and assumes he has left again, but he soon comes home with Chinese food and sees that Juanita is upset, despite trying to appear to be happy and is asked to hold her. Carl comes home to find Jo distraught and reveals what happened with Crystal, stating that she never once knew she was abused and wondering what kind of person she was. Jo and Carl embrace as she sobs into his shoulder. Alice and Nyla return to their apartment where Alice tells her to pray for forgiveness. As Nyla prays, Alice attempts to exorcise her with ashes and hot oil, hurting Nyla. Nyla freaks out, fights off Alice and then runs away to Yasmine's apartment, hoping to find some comfort. However, Yasmine is too traumatized from her rape to answer the door, so Nyla leaves.
Kelly is waiting outside the brownstone as Crystal comes out with a pail and a brush to wash away the blood of her children. Kelly walks up to her and Crystal asks if she's awake, to which Kelly, who is speechless, nods her head. Crystal comments that she does not feel awake and thinks that this is what death must feel like. Nyla passes by and Kelly takes her into Crystal's apartment to wash her up. Hearing Tangie bring in yet another suitor to her apartment, Nyla confronts her. Tangie kicks her suitor out after he asks her to invite Nyla for a threesome. Tangie and Nyla hash out their problems, before Tangie reveals that her life is complicated and she's still learning from her mistakes ("No More Love Poems #4"). Afterwards, Tangie and Nyla reconcile.
Yasmine is practicing an interpretive dance ("Sechita") as Kelly discovers that Crystal has swallowed an entire bottle of pills. Crystal is taken to the hospital as Yasmine is visited by Donald, who has informed her that Bill has been murdered after attempting to rape another woman. She goes into the morgue to look at his body one last time, before slapping him and then leaving. Juanita informs Kelly, Nyla, Tangie and Gilda that the doctors pumped Crystal's stomach and can see visitors as soon as she stabilizes.
That night, Kelly is unable to sleep, feeling guilty for not taking Crystal's children away sooner because she had to see the doctor about her infertility. Donald reassures her that one thing has nothing to do with the other. Juanita comes home with a birthday cake for Frank, only to find that he is not home and his clothes are gone. Juanita vents her frustration to her women's health class ("Somebody Almost Walked Off Wid Alla My Stuff") as Crystal is released from the hospital and goes into therapy. Jo gives Juanita a check for her non-profit organization, Beau Willie is sent to jail, and Nyla returns to dance class with Yasmine.
Tangie knocks on Crystal's door to invite her to Nyla's going away party. Crystal initially declines, but says she'll go if she feels up to it. Tangie begrudgingly invites Gilda, both finally having an unspoken, mutual respect for each other. Juanita finally breaks things off with Frank for good ("No More Love Poems #1"). Gilda comes by Crystal's apartment to see if she's eaten, which she hasn't. Crystal is still wondering how Beau Willie could do such a thing, but Gilda tells her that she also needs to take responsibility for not leaving Beau Willie sooner, and tells her that she needs to get out of the apartment.
Jo confronts Carl on his homosexuality, which he angrily denies at first but Jo tells him that she was not oblivious to the way Carl looks at other men. After venting his frustrations over Jo's controlling nature, he then admits that he has been sleeping with other men and tells her that he's sorry. Jo, however, tells him that she is not accepting his apology, having heard him apologize many times before ("Sorry"). Jo then reveals that she is HIV-positive from Carl's exploits and tells Carl to leave when she gets back home.
At Nyla's going away party, all the women gather to celebrate. Alice arrives under Tangie's invitation to give Nyla a few presents and tells Nyla she's proud of her. She then leaves to let Nyla and Tangie enjoy their night together. Jo and Juanita have a conversation on the rooftop about HIV, where Juanita assures Jo that HIV is not a death sentence. The other women come out to join them, including Crystal, as the women talk about the value of their love ("My Love Is Too") and share their experiences with men's apologies ("Sorry" cont.).
Crystal tells everyone that she was missing something in her life and the women reveal the hurt and pain they've gone through in their lives, before coming together to embrace Crystal and each other ("A Laying on of Hands") and move forward with their lives.
On September 3, 2009, Lionsgate announced it had acquired the distribution rights to Tyler Perry's 34th Street Films adaptation of the play, with principal photography originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, Georgia in November and December 2009, with a planned 2010 release. The film was written, directed, and produced by Perry. The cast includes Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Phylicia Rashād, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington and Thandie Newton. Mariah Carey had also been cast, but pulled out in May 2010, citing medical reasons (later revealed to be her pregnancy); Thandie Newton was cast to replace her. Macy Gray was also cast.
Originally using the play's full title, the film's title was shortened to For Colored Girls in September 2010. In an October 2010 press conference with the cast, Perry credited his full body of work for being able to make the film, stating, "It took everything—Madea, House of Payne and all of that—for me to be able to do For Colored Girls. Had none of that happened I wouldn't have been able to say, 'Listen, this is what I want to do next,' so I’m very proud of it all."
When asked if she held reservations about Perry's adaptation of her work, Shange responded: "I had a lot of qualms. I worried about his characterizations of women as plastic." In reference to the film post-production, she stated, "I think he did a very fine job, although I'm not sure I would call it a finished film."
The film was originally planned for a 2010 release, but was later delayed until January 14, 2011. However, the studio chose to move the release date forward to November 5, 2010; Tyler Perry commented it was "a serious film that really lends itself to the Fall period." Grossing $20.1 million in its opening weekend, For Colored Girls debuted at the box office at #3, behind Megamind ($47.7 million) and Due Date ($33.5 million).
Upon its release, For Colored Girls' received generally mixed-to-negative reviews from most critics. At Metacritic the film received an average score of 50, based on 33 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews". Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 32% of 102 professional critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.3 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "Tyler Perry has assembled a fine cast for this adaptation of the 1975 play, and his heart is obviously in the right place, but his fondness for melodrama cheapens a meaningful story".
Early reviews from a private screening by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter were negative. Peter DeBruge of Variety stated that "[i]n adapting Ntozake Shange's Tony-nominated play—a cycle of poetic monologues about abuse, abortion and other issues facing modern black women, rather than a traditional narrative—the do-it-all auteur demonstrates an ambition beyond any of his previous work. And yet the result falls squarely in familiar territory, better acted and better lit, perhaps, but more inauthentically melodramatic than ever." Despite an overall negative view of the film's plot and direction, DeBruge gives praise to the acting of its principal cast.
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter also highlighted the difficulty in translating Shange's poetic play to film. He commented: "No, it never was going to be easy, but someone needed to put creative sweat into this one, to reach for cinematic solutions to the theatrical challenge. All Perry does is force conventional plots and characters—utter cliches without lives or souls—into the fabric of Shange's literary work. The hackneyed melodramas get him from one poem to the next but run roughshod over the collective sense of who these women are." Honeycutt acknowledged the talents of the film's actresses, highlighting performances by Phylicia Rashād, Anika Noni Rose, and Kimberly Elise.
Critic Marshall Fine gave a negative review in The Huffington Post. He asserts Perry's screenplay is inadequate for its source material, stating that each character "gets the opportunity to suddenly burst into Shange's poetic arias. But the connective tissue that links the various stories ... amounts to a college course in black social pathology—or perhaps just human pathology." Acknowledging the acting talent of the ensemble cast, he states: "Don't get me wrong. The women of this film all shine, hitting strong emotional notes that ring true even when Perry's adaptation feels false ... So let's just say that For Colored Girls is a barely competent film (which is a big step up for Perry), illuminated by luminous performances."
Similarly, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly comments: "The female cast is great, with especially fierce performances from Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, and Anika Noni Rose. But stuck in a flailing production that might just as well invite Perry's signature drag creation Madea to the block party, the actors' earnest work isn't enuf."
Claudia Puig of USA Today called the film a "strained soap opera" which "has wrung the beauty and truth out of the original in almost every way possible." Mary Pols of TIME magazine states that despite the caliber of the cast, "Elise's performance is the only restrained one in the film and her Crystal is For Colored Girls' most compelling character." She concludes that "For Colored Girls feels like the cinematic equivalent to putting a garish reproduction of the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of your McMansion and calling it art. "
In contrast, a review by Shadow and Act was favorable, calling For Colored Girls "the best thing Perry has done to date." Perry is complimented on his cinematography, and use of "subtlety and nuance", although his screenwriting is still considered to be the weakest aspect of the film. Like previous reviews, praise is given to the acting quality of the cast, especially regarding performances given by Thandie Newton, Janet Jackson, and Kimberly Elise. The Huffington Post journalist Jenee Darden gave a mixed review. She comments that Perry's modern plot conflicts with the narrative of Shange's poetry which was written during the 1970s, explaining: "The film is set in the present and black people don't use the word 'colored' anymore. Watching a character type on a laptop then hearing someone describe themselves as 'colored' a few scenes later doesn't feel realistic."
She commends the acting of the cast, stating "Kimberly Elise stirs you as always. Loretta Devine is funny and vivid. Thandie Newton delivers as a troubled, selfish sex addict. She and Whoopi were matched perfectly as a mother and daughter with serious tensions. Singer Macy Gray's eerie portrayal of a back-alley abortionist will make you rethink ever having unsafe sex." Roger Ebert comments that "Shange's award-winning play is justly respected, but I'm not sure it’s filmmable, and I’m pretty sure it wasn't a wise choice for Perry ... That’s not to say 'For Colored Girls' doesn't have its virtues. Seeing these actresses together is a poignant reminder of their gifts, and of the absence of interesting roles for actresses in general and African-American ones in particular."
Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave a positive review, stating that "[w]ith a surgical precision, the writer-director cut [Shange's poetry] apart and reassembled it, using various pieces to create characters and storylines, keeping much of the poetry, writing the connective tissue himself so that it finds a new life, a somewhat different life on screen," and said it is his most "mature" film to-date. Commenting on the acting of the ensemble cast, she states: "Newton's Tangie swings too wildly; Goldberg's Alice, clad in white and rage, never finds traction; and Rashad, as the apartment manager Gilda, the central link between many of the characters, never quite connects, so it often feels as if she's walked onto the wrong stage" but adds that "[w]hatever stumbles there may be, they are offset by moments when 'For Colored Girls' soars," ultimately describing the film as "unforgettable."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle called For Colored Girls "a serious achievement." He compliments Perry's work, stating "this new film shows a mastery of tone, a capacity to elicit strong performances and also to bring out different colors within those performances so that, when it all comes together, it's not the same note sounding over and over. This is smart, lovely work." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film "a thunderous storm of a movie." Dargis states that "working with fine performers like Ms. Elise, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashād and Kerry Washington, he sings the song the way he likes it—with force, feeling and tremendous sincerity."
Matt Zoller Seitz of Salon.com calls For Colored Girls Perry's "most problematic work. It's also his most ambitious." He adds that "Perry never solves the stage-to-screen translation problem. But the path he has chosen is as intriguing as it is irksome, and it works better than you might expect." In terms of acting, he praises Jackson's performance, stating: "[s]he outdoes herself here ... It's not just Jackson's short haircut and traumatized eyes that might remind viewers of Jane Wyman or Joan Crawford; Perry gets at the mix of masculine hyper-competitiveness and feminine vulnerability that has always defined Jackson, and links it to the wily, lonely coldness often captured in Wyman and Crawford performances, a directorial gambit of tremendous perceptiveness." In addition, he says Perry "is just as sharp directing Jackson's costars—especially Elise, Rashad and Devine."
Prior to the film's debut, For Colored Girls had gained commentary as a probable forerunner in the 83rd Academy Awards. Lionsgate's For Your Consideration campaign asked to consider For Colored Girls in all categories, including all nine actresses for Best Supporting Actress. However, due to unfavorable reviews, the film was overlooked by a majority of film and critic associations.
Despite mostly negative views of Tyler Perry's screenplay and direction, the film's actresses were almost universally praised, noting several had given award-winning performances, including "[Kerry] Washington, Janet Jackson and Phylicia Rashad." Guy Lodge wrote that Lionsgate should have pushed harder for an Oscar campaign in the acting category, because "[c]hief among them is the extraordinary Kimberly Elise, an actress who deserved an awards break in 1998 for her best-in-show turn in the similarly uneven but impassioned Beloved—and 12 years later, is once more the great lost Best Supporting Actress contender of the 2010 season."
Lodge is also complementary towards the rest of Elise's co-stars, stating they "produce enough high-level thesping between them to justify ensemble honors that didn’t materialize either. Anika Noni Rose, in particular, merits an individual shout, principally for a seething post-rape monologue that lands just on the right side of the film’s stage origins. As a sex-addicted bartender, Thandie Newton turns in some of the most alert, adventurous work of her career, while Janet Jackson’s tight range has never been more strikingly deployed. And ... Macy Gray’s unnerving cameo as a Harlem backstreet abortionist ... further convinces me she’s one brave casting decision away from a Mo'Nique moment." For Colored Girls has received accolades primarily from African American film and critic associations, in multiple categories including acting, writing, directing and overall production. Kimberly Elise has received the most acting nomination among the cast, followed by Anika Noni Rose and Phylicia Rashad.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|African-American Film Critics Association||December 13, 2010||Best Picture||For Colored Girls||Nominated|
|Best Song||Nina Simone||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Michael Ealy||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Kimberly Elise||Won|
|Black Reel Awards||February 13, 2011||Outstanding Actress||Kimberly Elise||Nominated|
|Anika Noni Rose||Nominated|
|Outstanding Breakthrough Performance||Omari Hardwick||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director||Tyler Perry||Nominated|
|Outstanding Film||For Colored Girls||Nominated|
|Outstanding Ensemble||For Colored Girls||Won|
|Outstanding Original Score||Aaron Zigman||Nominated|
|Outstanding Original Song||Leona Lewis||Nominated|
|Outstanding Screenplay, Original or Adapted||Tyler Perry||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress||Janet Jackson||Nominated|
|Heartland Truly Moving Pictures||2010||Truly Moving Film||For Colored Girls||Won|
|NAACP Image Awards||March 4, 2011||Outstanding Directing for a Motion Picture/Television Movie||Tyler Perry||Won|
|Outstanding Motion Picture||For Colored Girls||Won|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture||Michael Ealy||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Kimberly Elise||Won|
|Anika Noni Rose||Nominated|
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- Fritz, Ben (November 4, 2010). "Movie projector: Hollywood looking for huge weekend as 'Megamind,' 'Due Date' and 'Colored Girls' open [updated]". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved November 5, 2010.
That should make it another successful Perry film for independent studio Lionsgate, which spent $21 million on production.
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