The Color Purple

The Color Purple (1985) Director: Steven Spielberg


Despite being a powerful and well-made film, The Color Purple is an overtly emotional movie, sensationalized with excessive melodrama, a sorrowful and traumatizing movie –it is simply not to my taste. Nearly every man/male character who appears in the film is either an unapologetic rapist, a deadbeat, or otherwise a bestial, aggressive, cowardly, abusive husband or father. The immense, unending, hyperbolic cruelty is difficult to stomach for this movie-goer. As the film progresses, we gradually become desensitized with scene after scene of unrepentant violence and psychological terror. Every time we think Spielberg et al couldn’t possibly tug any harder on our heart strings, somehow he finds a way. In the end, there is a glimmer of hope in a gratifying arc as redemption is finally found through the protagonist’s self-empowerment. The film stars Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, as well as Danny Glover as “Mister,” Oprah Winfrey as Sofia, and Margaret Avery as Shug (there is also a cameo by a young Laurence Fishburne). The Color Purple was nominated for a shocking 11 Academy Awards, though it failed to win in any category.

Predictably, The Color Purple raised quite a bit of controversy upon its release, not least of which from the NAAACP among others who orchestrated a boycott of the film as a result of Spielberg’s direction and so on. At any rate the film stays mostly true to the epistolary Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. I won’t reiterate a plot summary but feel free to read my reflections upon reading the original source material as part of my survey of each Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (here is a link to my reflections on Alice Walker’s The Color Purple). A handful of changes were made between the book and the movie, but perhaps the most glaring is a cinematic downplaying of the explicit lesbian eroticism which was present in the novel.

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