Color Purple (The)
A black child runs in fields of purple flowers with her sister in the cruel rural South of the early 20th century. In full view, Celie (Goldberg) is pregnant, which we learn is by her father, who will give the baby away, as he's done once already. Celie marries a cold, handsome man she calls "Mister" (Glover); her children are gone, and she's unable to bear more. Also separated from her sister (Busia), the one person who loves her, she lives as a servant to a man who openly loves another woman, yet endures and prevails. This uncompromising, uplifting story is of her victory.
Mister brings home a woman he's adored for years - alcoholic juke singer Shug Avery (Avery), whose hard life hasn't eroded her beauty. She tells Celie, "You ugly as sin." But as Celie tenderly cares for her and includes her in their household, Shug discovers Celie's beauty. They kiss; Celie finds sex can be tender, that she can dare to love, even herself. In the movie's central moment, she looks at Shug and smiles; she didn't think her smile pretty until now. The movie will be as good as promised.
The women's relationship isn't as central as in the book; Spielberg shows little of Celie's erotic life, but the whole of her world: It contains a few local whites, and the black community, including Sofia (Winfrey), an indomitable spirit bound to marry Harpo (Pugh), Mister's son by a first wife. Hurrying down the road, she seems unstoppable, but is beaten and jailed for telling the white mayor to go to hell. Wounded by life, Sofia is the opposite of Celie. Shug is also great: A sad, pretty woman, she's lost all illusions, esp. about men. Celie is someone she can be nice to, letting her rediscover what's still good inside herself. Maybe Mister, whose real name is Albert, doesn't know how mean he is to Celie. He acts kind, smiles, jokes, and sings, but hurts her deeply by hiding letters she hopes her long-lost sister is sending.
Celie (Goldberg, in one of the best debuts ever, and rightly won the 1985 Academy Award) is empathetic, but hardly speaks or interacts. Her letters, rarely sent or received, and most addressed to God, help her stay sane. She reads them, breaking silence about her life. The wonderful performances reveal few of the shocking parts of Walker's novel, but all its depth. The affirmation at the end is so inspired that the movie earns and inspires tears of happiness.
Steven Speilberg, based on the novel by Alice Walker
Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Willard Pugh, Akosua Busia,
Whoopi Goldberg; Alice Walker; young black woman the rural D
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