The film celebrates the indomitable spirit of black women in the South and their ultimate triumph over what is for much of their lives unremitting misery. At the centre is Celie, whom we first meet as an adolescent in 1909, played by Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, whose young face vividly reflects her unhappy life. She is the victim of an abusive father, who has made her pregnant, then takes her child away and marries her off to the equally abusive Mister (Colman Domingo).
The only light in her life is her beloved sister Nettie (Halle Bailey). When Mister brutally throws Nettie out, Celie (now played by Fantasia Barrino) is totally alone – until that is one of Mister’s sons marries the feisty Sofia (Danielle Brooks) and the two women become good friends. Sofia, who packs a powerful punch when someone gets up her nose, is a woman of apparently unbreakable spirit but at one point even she is crushed, in her case by the actions of a white woman racist.
The third member of this trio of heroines is Mister’s mistress, the glamourous torch singer Shug (Taraji P. Henson). At first Celie can only admire her from afar but when Shug moves in with Mister, the two women become close friends, allies against Mister and in fact, lovers, though the film is a bit shy of showing more than a rather chaste kiss between the two, preferring to express their passion through a fantasy musical sequence. Well, this is a musical.
Apart from the three female star performances – Domingo and the other male characters don’t get much of a look in – the musical numbers themselves are terrific. Many of the songs have a gospel flavour, which always lifts the roof. Some though are poignant, others downright sexy, while choreographer Fatima Robinson’s powerful and colourful work on the dance sequences really rocks.
The story ends with Celie now a middle aged woman in the 1940s. It’s a time span which embraces two world wars, in which many black Americans fought, though that plays no part in this story. The subject matter here is survival in a different context and it’s not giving away too much to say that in the end Celie and her friends triumph and families are reunited in an extended reconciliation finale, which is almost Shakespearean in its stretching of coincidence. Which is fine in a story which is a brutal but ultimately uplifting parable celebrating the power of the human spirit, in this case girl power.
Premium Digital Ownership: February 26, 2024
DVD Street Date: April 8, 2024
DVD Languages: English, Castilian Spanish, Italian
DVD Subtitles: English, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish
Running Time: 135 minutes
UK Cert: 12
Consumer Advice: domestic abuse, sexual violence references, language, sex, discrimination
DVD: 5.1 Dolby Digital