Home Estate Planning The Color Purple is a superbly realised update, with great music

The Color Purple is a superbly realised update, with great music

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Following the release of Mean Girls, another film-based-on-a-musical-based-on-a-film comes to cinemas, this time with more satisfying results. The Color Purple is an adaptation of the 2005 Broadway musical, itself inspired by both the 1985 Steven Spielberg film, and the 1982 Alice Walker novel it was based on. 

Fantasia Barrino stars as Celie, a woman in an abusive marriage who finds strength through her friendship with gospel singer Shug (Taraji P Henson) and Celie (Danielle Harris). 

Set in the Southern United States in the 1920s, themes of systemic struggle don’t immediately bring to mind Broadway showtunes. However, director Blitz Bazawule (who directed Beyonce’s concept album Black Is King) shows the power of joy.

When the music isn’t playing, the film’s central trio is breathtaking. Henson takes the opportunity to shine, grabbing the audience by the collar and drawing them into the magic of the story. Harris is a force of nature, but it’s Barrino who stands out in the lead.

Taking the quiet dignity of Whoopi Goldberg’s performance in the previous film and adding further nuance, it’s the main example of how the movie can be bright and entertaining without abandoning the serious subject matter. The subject of Celie’s sexuality (she is in love with Shug in the book) is addressed more than it is in Spielberg’s film, but still in a manner that seems disappointingly chaste. In 2024, two women loving each other shouldn’t be controversial.   

A superbly realised update, The Color Purple balances the grit of the novel with the grace of the 80s film. Some may be disappointed it doesn’t go as far as the source material, but superb acting and stunning musical numbers ensure this is a remake that justifies its existence. 

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