A new film adaptation of the popular Broadway musical “The Color Purple” hits theaters this Christmas, garnering enthusiastic reviews from critics for its performances, Direction, and ability to capture the emotional spirit of Alice Walker’s beloved novel.
Rave Reviews for Fantasia Barrino’s Career-Defining Performance
Critics overwhelmingly singled out Fantasia Barrino’s central performance as Celie for particular praise. Barrino, an American Idol winner who made her Broadway debut as Celie to great acclaim in 2015, has earned some of the best reviews of her career for her work in the new film.
As Bilge Ebiri writes in New York Magazine:
“Fantasia Barrino, the American Idol veteran, caps a journey that’s brought her from reality competitions to the legitimate stage by giving a tremendously moving lead performance, one that charts the gradual emotional awakening of a woman the world refuses to see.”
Peter Debruge of Variety calls Barrino’s performance “Sensationally good — the kind that makes winners out of nominees,” while Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly deems Barrino “A quiet revelation,” writing that “her voice remains one of the great instruments in popular music — and here it soars on numbers like the yearning ‘Too Beautiful for Words.'”
Danielle Brooks and Taraji P. Henson Also Draw Raves
While Barrino has garnered the lion’s share of critical attention, her co-stars Danielle Brooks and Taraji P. Henson have also earned high marks for their work as Sofia and Shug Avery, respectively.
Brooks, known for acclaimed work on Orange is the New Black, brings her booming theatrical voice and fierce screen presence to the role of Sofia. Katie Walsh of Nerdist argues that Brooks “Comes close to stealing the entire film,” while Carlos Aguilar of The Wrap writes that “Her hilarious and poignant delivery amplifier her character’s relevance.”
Empire’s Ben Travis sums up Brooks’ performance: “It’s a barnstorming turn filled with fortitude and laughter in equal measure — when the camera settles on Brooks, she owns the scene.”
As the sultry jazz singer Shug Avery, Taraji P. Henson also exhibits her natural charisma and vocal talents. While some critics like Adam Graham of The Detroit News felt Henson “Doesn’t quite capture Shug’s magnetic appeal,” most praised her for adding depth and humanity to the character.
Director Finds the Heart of Alice Walker’s Novel
While the performances have gained significant acclaim, many critics are also celebrating director Blitz Bazawule for successfully adapting the material for the screen. Bazawule, who directed Beyoncé’s Black is King, keeps much of the stage musical’s structure intact while finding cinematic ways to realize Walker’s story.
Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times writes that Bazawule “Has made something robust and full-hearted, sincere and pleasurable, respectful of Walker’s vision while imaginatively carving out its own place within it.” While the musical numbers slow the pacing, Chang argues the director finds “Moments that convey a rich sense of Black life in the rural South.”
Bazawuele’s camerawork also draws notice: Carlos Aguilar praises Bazawule’s “Intimate visual language,” while Leah Greenblatt compliments him for filming the musical numbers “Artfully.”
Film Builds New Appreciation for Broadway Score
As a musical adaptation, the effectiveness of the Broadway score by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray proved crucial. Reviews suggest the film has brought new luster and meaning to the songs through impassioned performances and context.
Katie Walsh argues The film “Allows the score to truly shine and for the lyrics and meaning behind each song to land in a profound way.” Adam Graham writes in The Detroit News That “Seeing the songs performed in their proper context gives them new dimension.”
The songs provide memorable moments, from Shug’s sultry blues number “Too Beautiful For Words,” Celie and Shug’s triumphant duet “What About Love?,” to the full-cast showstopper “Mysterious Ways.” But chief among them may be Fantasia Barrino’s take on the climactic ballad “I’m Here.”
Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press raves “Barrino burns herself into film history with her version of the song ‘I’m Here,’ which she sings with such ferocity that goes right to the bone. Her version will rip you apart.”
Peter Debruge argues Barrino’s rendition of “I’m Here” alone makes the movie essential, asking: “How could any celebration of the best in contemporary Black music fail to incorporate this performance?”
|The Color Purple
|December 20, 2023
|Broadway Musical/Alice Walker novel
|Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks
|“Too Beautiful For Words,” “What About Love?” “I’m Here”
Widespread Acclaim Positions Film as Awards Contender
With praise coming from prominent outlets like the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and Entertainment Weekly, the film looks poised to potentially factor into coming awards races.
So far, the film holds an impressive 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on over 80 reviews, notably topping Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation starring Whoopi Goldberg, which currently has a 78% Rotten Tomatoes score.
If the film continues finding audiences through the holiday season and building Oscar buzz, it could potentially contend for Best Picture. And with critics widely arguing Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks have delivered potential award-worthy turns, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominations seem highly plausible.
Stage Roots Bode Well for Film’s Enduring Legacy
As a film adapted from and paying tribute to a still-running 21st century Broadway musical, The Color Purple seems well-positioned for an enduring afterlife.
Much as hits like Chicago and Les Miserables have found new generations of fans through movie versions, this beloved American tale centered on Black women’s lives can now be readily experienced by worldwide audiences.
And by keeping the musical format intact while utilizing film’s capacity for intimacy, Bazawule’s adaptation may come to define stage and screen iterations alike. When Ariana DeBose takes over the role of Nettie for Broadway revivals, it’s easy to imagine her performance referencing the sublime work of Corey Hawkins in the new movie.
Just as Steven Spielberg brought Alice Walker’s words to enduring screen life back in 1985, Blitz Bazawule’s adaptation seems destined now to proudly carry Walker’s vision forward into the 21st century – inviting audiences to listen, share, pass it on.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.