*On Monday, Nov 1st in Los Angeles, Lionsgate Films and the Tyler Perry Foundation presented a special screening of Tyler Perry’s 34th Street Films’ “For Colored Girls.”

The movie is based on the award winning play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange.

The special screening benefitted the HerShe group, a non-profit organization that prepares girls in foster care for successful transition into adult independence.

The Tyler Perry Foundation’s gift to the HerShe group mimics a gesture made in the film when Jo, played by Janet Jackson, gives money to support under privileged girls in urban communities – signaling the start of her healing.  EURweb was on the scene and opens the topic for conversation.

Screening Night in Los Angeles

At the L.A. screening, some theater goers had a vague idea of what to expect from Perry, having seen the award winning play by Ntozake Shange.  But many did not and came as open vessels for a new experience. They came simply because of the stellar cast, the dynamic trailer and to see what Perry had up his sleeves for urban history this time.

What they found was an exciting mix of dramatic acting with appropriately placed and well transitioned poetic monologues.

The night of the showing proved a sensitive and metaphorical evening; one sure to leave impressions in the minds of women indefinitely.

“For Colored Girls” – an Exploration of the Feminine Black

“For Colored Girls” is an exquisite psychological endeavor, one that delicately explores the dark side of contemporary experiences for “colored” women. Perry’s adaptation speaks up for the integrity of black women after a long season against her. In this dramatic film, the wild and varied colors of her true beauty are exposed and tales of her suffrage (post the stereotype of “angry black woman”) are told.    

The film displays beauty, vulnerability, and connection and features monologues that expose the weariness of the psyche and poetic rhythms that evoke healing in Black women through genuine self discovery. Poems that read like, “Ordinary, brown braided woman, with big legs and full lips become yourself,” pepper the drama.  

“For Colored Girls” stars Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, and Whoopi Goldberg and features Macy Gray, Michael Ealy, Omari Hardwick, Richard Lawson, Hill Harper and Khalil Kain. It’s a remarkable cast. Dynamically, all of the actors gave strong roles and impeccable performances, in this writer’s opinion.  

While Perry depicts a realistic range of feminine circumstance in “For Colored Girls,” the audience is taken from the head of the board room, to the lowest denominator in the slums. Meanwhile the story centers on the lives of a group of women interconnected by an apartment building, a neighborhood, family and work.

Addressing Similarities

There are those who thought Lionsgate’s Academy Award winning film “Precious” (for which Perry lent his name) was neglectful of an honest view of black women, while exaggerating African American issues.

Those critics might find that “For Colored Girls” is more realistic, and although the film reveals a range of shortcomings; insecurities, vulnerabilities, promiscuity, dangerous-selflessness and even craziness, it attempts to show the inherent and assorted beauty of black women weaved within the stories of black lives.

Portraits – Seven Dispositions

In “For Colored Girls” Tyler Perry’s portrait study of black women showcases several psycho dynamic enactments; a black woman can be driven, but can lose sight of what’s important; although distrustful – she can be promiscuous when sexual intimacy is the only way she feels loved; She can be devoutly religious – gone out of her mind, and turned cold and abusive for her beliefs. She might be a martyr because of her empathy, and try loving a mentally sick an abusive man at all cost.  Another poem from the play follows.

“My back is strong enough to take the pain inflicted again and again,” plays the films soundtrack.  

Further, a black woman can be filled with light and artistic expression and then preyed upon – raped, misused, her girlish light forever dimmed. Perry also depicts a black woman with strong roots – a rock; experienced, knowing, sharing and chastising, but protective.  Then finally he shows her seeing herself, and connecting with other women for healing and growth.  

The Other Side of Darkness

While Perry’s adaptation exposes the black women’s functional pathology, it is not at all one-sided, and neglectful of her beauty. For example, in a pivotal scene Kimberly Elise’s character, Crystal is a mother of two and is in an abusive relationship. We see the mindfulness she practices with the handling of her long time boyfriend Willie (played by Michael Ealy) and father of her children. Although Willie’s rage was fierce, like a bomb in route for explosion, Crystal was patient … speaking to him sweetly and very careful not to set him off. She soothes him and diffuses his rage with her gentleness, at least until the end …

But this film, a serious drama, is no way just nice and sweet. Both Macy Gray and Whoopi Goldberg give incredible performances boarding on vile and eerie. Gray who plays Rose, a cigarette smoking – drunkard, with blackened teeth, looms over the young character Nyla, played by Tessa Thompson, like a worn ghetto witch doctor, urging her to open her legs for a homemade abortion.  Rose sterilizes the long and steel abortion tools in liquor mixed with cigarette ashes and speaks of the life she once had when she was young and desired like Nyla. This scene is spookily frightening.  

Plus, Goldberg nails it with her blown up depiction of Alice, a religious fanatic who tortures her mixed raced daughters, born from “sin,” and pits one over the other.

Male Bashing?

Though “For Colored Girls” details the loss of self of Black women through pathology and feminine self discovery, some might say that Perry’s depiction of men in this movie is male bashing.

There was: your bisexual black man on the lowdown, lying to and stealing from his wife – who eventually brings home AIDS, the fatal abuser, the charming rapist, the abandoning cheat; this is all true.

However, Perry shows compassion for the men in this film too, and reveals a delicate side for each while briefly touching on his inner torment.  Sorry fellows, the dark portrayal of men seems just a circumstance to the film’s purpose, a dramatic and psychological study of particular issues that affect black women – just trying to do the right things, or simply to get by. Perry awakens the thought that such vulnerable women exist, and perhaps even in an era of the “angry black woman” syndrome.

“Every since I realized there was someone called a colored girl, or an evil woman, or a nag, I’ve been trying not to be that,” Loretta Devine’s character, Juanita said.

Twenty Poems

Each of the women in “For Colored Girls” portrays the characters represented in the collection of twenty poems from the original play and reveals different issues that impact women in general, but particularly women of color.  “For Colored Girls” is an important film that every woman, particularly black women, should make it out to see.

Questions to stir discussion

* Are these authentic characters/ dispositions of urban women today?

*  Has the Black women been driven mad? Is she at a turning point?

*  Has she given up her sweetness? Is she seeking to find herself a new?

*  What message in this film was most touching? Resonated most?

*  How are Black men relevant to her (colored girls) pathology, or not?

* Are Black men implicated in the suffering, or loss of self in Black Women?

*  Have Black women historically been thorns or bridges for Black men?

* Are the issues for urban women still the same as depicted in the film? How are they different?

*  If different what brought about a change?  Good or bad?