He Said/She Said: “For Colored Girls” Critical Review

19 Nov

As promised, PrimeMeridian and The Realist are here to share with you our thoughts and opinions concerning Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls. We will each share our opening thoughts, answer some questions we collectively came up with, and leave you with our closing thoughts and overall grades. *Warning: spoiler alert* Without further ado…

Opening Thoughts

He Said: So I’m not a huge Tyler Perry fan. I enjoyed Family Reunion and Why Did I Get Married? (for the most part), but Perry’s strength lies in writing plays.  In my opinion, that doesn’t directly translate to movie-making, and that is apparent in regards to his scripts. There is a lot of dialog. Too much dialog. He undertook a lot with this endeavor, though, which was a pleasant surprise. I was actually happy that he got away from the winding, twisting, and turning plots that we’ve grown accustomed to from him for this movie. The script was a typical Tyler Perry script, though. I realize that this was adapted from a play, but there is A LOT of dialog! I think this movie could have gone much further if there was less talking and more acting. The acting in For Colored Girls was very impressive. Tessa Thompson was the only actress who didn’t quite convince me with her performance, but this cast was top notch. I must say that they were all on top of their game and effectively conveyed strong emotions and moving scenes. Finally, as a poet myself, I loved and appreciated the poetry. It was quite moving and well-placed. I’m glad that Perry kept this artistic aspect. Each woman having her own color throughout the movie was artistically pleasing as well.

She Said: Tyler Perry has been sufficiently criticized for producing haphazard works with no regard to 3 Act structure or plot consistency. I have friends who would not see the movie because TP directed it; they said they new it would be garbage. I’m an overt TP supporter because he is doing what the rest of Hollywood will not: regularly employing black actors and actresses. Although, I do not always agree with his directorial skills, he has not made the worst movies of all time either. There are several movies that should be tossed on the trash pile and set a fire and people support them, consistently. TP needs some work to develop his craft, but his intention of showing black people in various lights while producing something that is emotionally moving and funny gets an applause from me. Clap for him. (That’s my TP rant)

That being said, TP did significantly better with this movie. He enlisted a stellar cast and allowed them to utilize their already developed crafts to bring the script to life. Anika Rose was so freakin believable and amazing in her rape scene. When she spoke with the detective at the hospital, it was a little stage play-ish, but I think it worked. Thandie Newton did a great job at making us all hate her and Phylicia Rashad did a better job at making us pity her (Thandie’s character). I’m a Kimberly Elise stan, so nothing to be said there and the rest of the cast did their thing. There were a few times where I felt TP could have introduced a character or situation more subtlety though. That’s one of TP’s biggest weakness.  He is so overt with his structure and he struggles to get the message across without screaming before it’s spoken. Great movies deliver a message without you noticing. That was my only real issue with it…oh and that God awful ending. I hated the ending…

Question 1: Why should black men be/not be offended?

She Said: Of course, people have already posted about the black male response to this movie. Check my girl Belle out here. Basically, in the context of this movie, black men should get over themselves. This movie isn’t about you. I’m not going to waste time breaking down the characters one by one to determine who is a more accurate representation of the black man. It just doesn’t matter. Whenever, a movie comes out that is about the black female experience, black men feel bashed. The black female experience is so intrinsically linked to the black male. Whether a black woman has been cheated on, beated on (cue Keri Hilson) or just disrespected by a black man, we can all relate to some of the characters experiences. Frankly, that’s sad, but it’s reality. I am no where near the type to believe that all black men are dogs or that there aren’t men out their holding it down, but black men do mistreat and devalue there own. So, if black men are angry about the portrayal, I think it would behoove them to do some self reflection and hold their brothers accountable. << (this is a whole ‘nother post). I do not think black men should keep scapegoating these portrayals under the heading of, “we’re not all bad” or “oh well, black women think we aint ish anyway”. I think black men should contemplate how these notions arise and consider the fact that all stereotypes are not false. They originate somewhere. Again, accountability. So, if black men are offended and angry. That’s okay. At least be purposeful with your anger. Make it count.

He said: First off, this movie is aimed at women. It is about them and their struggle when dealt a God-awful hand. Now that I got that out of the way, I will say this. Brother on the down low. Wifebeater. Cheater. Alcoholic. Rapist. Babykiller. Child molester. Renegade. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the black male…at least in Tyler Perry’s world. Does anyone else notice that Tyler Perry always plays the good guy (when he’s not in drag) in his movies? He’s either the perfect doctor or the perfect lawyer with absolutely no flaws. He’s the perfect dad and the perfect husband. Well, dammit, he’s not in this one, fellas. Sorry. We do get a pinch hitter in Hill Harper, who just so happens to be many women’s favorite male author in real life. He strikes out, though. He plays a minor and rather weak cop role. When Tyler Perry went on Oprah a few weeks ago and told the world that he was molested as a child by a man, it all clicked for me. This man is assassinating the black male image and replacing it with his own knight in shining armor , which is always played by, ahem, Tyler Perry (or Hill Harper in this case). Is this some kind of strange revenge or something? Overall, every woman’s heartache and heartbreak could be traced to a black man in this movie. I’m not knocking that because that happens in real life, but it was so over the top in this movie. It seemed like every black man we were introduced to was one of Satan’s minions.

Question 2: Did we hate Michael Ealy in this movie more than Danny Glover in The Color Purple?

He Said: This one isn’t even close in my opinion. Michael Ealy by a mile.  Ladies, you remember the cat in Barbershop with the cornrows and light skin and blue eyes (or whatever color they were)? You liked him, didn’t you? You wish you had someone like him to take you home to meet his mom, didn’t you? Well, he is absolutely wicked in this movie! Everybody hated Danny Glover’s Mister and all, but Michael Ealy’s character just might go down as one of, if not, the most evil and demonic character in black cinema history. He’s a drunk, beats up on his girlfriend, and he kills two kids! His kids!! Out of a window!!! Dear God.

She Said: Of course we all wanted to beat the ish out of Danny Glover in The Color Purple. (I wanted to beat him in Beloved too. Just for doing a sex scene with Oprah). As if the fact that he essentially bought Ms Celie wasn’t enough, he had the audacity to berate and beat her in front of her children. But no matter how bad Danny Glover was, he did not throw some (extremely cute, TP did it on purpose) children out of the window of an apartment building. My heart stopped on this scene and I kept waiting for someone to catch them or for the doctor to say they had somehow (although unrealistically) survived. This would have been a good spot to put a damn rainbow. Whew! I’m still upset.

Anyway, the difference is that Danny Glover never had any endearing qualities. It is clear that TP tried to endear Michael Ealy to us by telling his stories of being a war hero, or the loving scene with Kimberly Elise where she tells him not to drink, and the way he held the kids right before. It’s weird, but Ealy seemed to have some redeeming quality that made me feel a little sorry for him in the end. Just a little though. Also, I equally hated Kimberly Elise’s character because she could have gotten those kids out of there. She stayed with this deranged, unstable creature and that was unforgiveable in my opinion. She had a choice; those kids didn’t.

Question 3: The original play is entitled “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf”. Where’s the damn rainbow? (disclaimer: neither of us read the play)

She Said: I don’t know which Rainbow the play was talking about because this movie has none. Even, if there was a rainbow, I do not think it would be “enuf” considering the tragedies that these women face. I have watched movies like this before. Movies where nothing good happens (see Precious), but this movie is really gut wrenching. I guess that coming to grips with their own realities may be considered the “happy” moment, but coming to grips with it only means that they have to exist in it. I wouldn’t want to have to exist in any of their realities. Rape. Death. Disease. Abandonment. Steril-ism. No Rainbow. None. I kept looking for it the entire time too and it never came. That’s probably why I didn’t like the ending. I want the world to know that black women do experience rainbows from time to time. We know they exist. Geesh!

He Said: If you’re looking for a movie with a heart-warming plot and a happy ending, go see Secretariat. This is not that kind of movie. This is two hours of raw, pulsating, gritty, jaw-dropping, eye-closing, depressing ish. All of these women are trying to find themselves, rediscover themselves, and/or pick up the pieces because of men who threatened to destroy them. Even in the end, there isn’t much redemption. There’s no ticker tape parade. There’s no Shawshank moment. Just a life to carry on with and try to make sense of. This is pure heart-wrenching stuff.

Question 4: Would this film have benefited more if it was directed by a female?

He Said: With such a powerful cast of women, I would have liked to see a woman behind the lens. This movie is empowering for women, and I think having a female direct it could have gone a long way.  Having someone who has been educated in movie-making actually direct it couldn’t have hurt either. Yeah, I’m taking shots at you, Mr. Perry.

She Said: This movie may have benefited from a female director. Honestly, it probably would have benefited from a female writer more than a female director. The director brings the writing to life and cinematography wise, it wasn’t that bad. The script wasn’t that bad either, but I am sure a female writer could have delivered some of the experiences better. Maybe Thandie Newton would not have seemed so ho-ish, Phylicia Rashad would have been more multi-dimensional, or Kimberly Elise would have dealt with her husband less passively (sidenote: Her part of the script didn’t seem realistic for a black woman to me. We may love you, but we traditionally love our kids more). I also think it would have delved deeper into the female psyche and explained how these women became who they are. The ending would have been better too (yes, I’m talking about it again). Black women are the most resilient people alive (strong statement. my opinion) and a female director probably would have highlighted that more.

Question 5: What should the response from black women be? If White America was watching, should black women be proud of this?

She Said: As a black woman, this movie makes me feel grateful for my experiences and proud of the black women who have survived these types of ordeals. Bouncing back is what we do. We do it well. Although, I felt extremely sad for the characters and for my sisters who have endured similar hardship or worse, I do not pity them. Having a pity party about how black women get the short end of the stick (even though we do) is not the response I hope for. Deflate the balloons. Cancel the cake. Well, wait! Keep the cake. Let’s celebrate! We should be celebrating ourselves because whether we have had similar experiences or not, we have all had our share of ish.

I think Black women should also respond with strengthened sisterhoods. Sometimes we can be down right cruel to each other and the truth is, we share such similar struggles. I loved the parts of the movie where their paths intertwined and they leaned on each other even if they didn’t know each other that well. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is much easier if you have someone helping you get the boots and helping you put them on. So much power lies in black women’s ability to ignore the petty BS that often divides us and formulate a cohesive sisterhood community. <cue Big Mama’s talk about teh fist striking a mighty blow: Soul Food>

White America?! Dah well. I hate that they will see this. I hate it for black women and for black men. This is the stuff that we discuss at our kitchen tables because we get it. We understand that one monkey doesn’t stop the show and although, our cousin, sister, mother, aunt, etc may have had an unfortunate circumstance we will all get through it together. White America loves to pity blacks from afar. I think White America will see this movie and feel bad for black women. I just don’t like them watching because they cannot understand it…

He Said: I can’t speak for black women since I’m not one, but I think this could be a source of pride and empowerment. It is a cruel world out there, but every woman in this movie ended up standing on her feet by the end. I just hate that a lot of it comes at the expense of black men. Once again, we aren’t the targeted audience for this movie, but it certainly targets us, aims, and fires…repeatedly. If White America sees this in large numbers, I think I’ll cringe. This is yet another ugly side of Black America rearing its head into the mainstream.

Closing Thoughts/Overall Grade

He Said: I walked out of the movie theater with a million thoughts pinging through my mind. I felt mostly upset and angry.  For me, the two prevailing themes are the assassination of the black male image, which I’ve talked about at length here, and the civil war going on on so many fronts (in the movie and real life).  First, women can be women’s worst enemies. Neighbors hating neighbors, daughters hating mothers, sisters hating sisters, etc. There was so much disdain in this movie for one another until these women realized they were all they had. Another example of civil war was obviously men vs. women. We’ve discussed this ad nauseum so I won’t delve any further. However, the overriding theme of this is the civil war in the black community. Unlike many black movies, white folks aren’t the ones to blame in this one. All the pain and horror dished out throughout this movie was from black people. So go ahead and file this one under Precious, Beloved, and The Color Purple for female-centered, depressing, black movies.

Overall grade: C+/B-

She Said: When I left this movie, I just did not know what to feel. I was still distracted by the ending and I found myself discussing the parts that pissed us off with my girlfriends. Yelling in the movie parking lot, “Who the heck is [Eloeime]?” I know that several people left and said they were just depressed by the film. This movie was melancholy, but not depressing. It unabashedly dealt with real life stories and engaged the worse parts of life. Whether people agree or disagree with the portrayal of black men in the movie, it pretty accurately integrated their role into the misfortunes of black women. It’s not depressing; it’s our (someone’s) reality. The hope is that the movie will do exactly what it has been doing: spark discourse. By bringing these issues into the mainstream, people are talking more and really having to face the reflection of the black community. It’s a grim picture, but it’s not impossible. Rainbows can be created.

Overall grade: A-/B+

-PrimeMeridian and 23


Posted by on November 19, 2010 in Movies


19 responses to “He Said/She Said: “For Colored Girls” Critical Review

  1. Tj

    November 19, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    This is well done! Can’t wait to read

  2. fnasty

    November 20, 2010 at 2:17 AM

    Great post!

    @23, excellent point about TP being the good/perfect guy in his movies when not in drag. Malik Yoba is a close 2nd from Why Did I Get Married 2, but we know how that ends. Interestingly enough, the cause of his demise was the black woman. Just thoughts, good read though.

  3. primemeridian11

    November 20, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    I would like to point out that in most TP movies, the women are the crazy ones. Let’s Explore:

    1. Daddy’s Little Girls: Crazy work obsessed Gabrielle Union who needed a man to deliver her.
    2. The Family That Prey’s: Cold and callused Sanaa Lathan who cheats on her husband because he doesn’t make enough money for her to respect him.
    3. Why’d I Get Married I and II: Tasha Smith (Angela), both times. And Sharon Leal who was so work obsessed that she tied her tubes without telling her husband.
    4. I Can Do Bad…: Taranji Henson who was a homewrecker and a drug addict who needed a man to save her too.
    5. Madea Goes To Jail: Keisha Knight Pullium, prostitute who needed a man to save her too.
    6. Diary of a Mad Black Woman and A Family Reunion had decent female characters in them except for freakin Lynn Whitfield. Still, these women needed men to save them, again.

    So what again are black men complaining about?

  4. realist23

    November 20, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    And yet, you still appreciate Tyler Perry and his craft. On the surface, it is admirable that he employs his own. That’s great. But is he doing more damage than good? This man has been thrust into the mainstream and openly endorsed by Oprah. What does that mean? He’s safe to Oprah’s middle-aged, white female crowd. He’s what rap and hip-hop became sometime during the 90’s…acceptable and available for heavy white consumption. So black men are the scum of the Earth (except his character) and black women are the crazy, deranged, mad, and sex-crazed damsels in distress. Who wins here? It’s certainly not us.

    Once again, black women are the North and black men are the South…and Tyler Perry is slavery and states’ rights dividing us in this modern-day civil war featuring the black community against the black community.

    • primemeridian11

      November 20, 2010 at 10:29 AM

      I didn’t say I appreciate his craft. I said his craft needs work. I appreciate what he is doing for black Hollywood in terms of employing people. I also think his stuff is funny. It makes me laugh. Shoot me! (some people thought the Hangover was funny and that’s totally beyond me. that movie was trash).

      He has other good male characters in his movies. All of the men in those movies were good men. The allegation that he is always the only good male character is exaggerated.

      His stuff needs work. I have no problem admitting that, but comparing him to slavery? Come on man!

      • MYH

        November 21, 2010 at 2:31 PM

        Note: The Hangover was pretty good. Not great, but good.

  5. realist23

    November 20, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    I’m not attacking you. His stuff has his moments. I’m not knocking that. And I wasn’t really comparing him to slavery. I’m saying that his work is something that is dividing us.

    I meant to respond to this earlier, but you mentioned, “Who the heck is Eloeime?” Elohim translates to God in the Hebrew Bible. I think Whoopi’s character was a Jehovah’s Witness or something comparable to that denomination. I wish he had better developed this.

    • primemeridian11

      November 20, 2010 at 10:38 AM

      Oh yeah, we knew! We just shouted that during the movie and we kept saying it in the parking lot because it was funny. That’s all. Jokes!

      And, I don’t feel attacked. This is healthy debate…

  6. realist23

    November 20, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    This whole thing has made me itchy and uncomfortable. Next time, can we review a classic? Let’s do LOVE JONES! I know we both love that movie, and it doesn’t get its proper credit.

    Stay tuned, thREADERS.

    • primemeridian11

      November 20, 2010 at 10:41 AM

      Ole’ Do It!!! [I do not support Waka Flocka]

  7. justinfication

    November 20, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Great post!

    Haha @ fnasty Re: Mailk Yoba

  8. MYH

    November 21, 2010 at 2:25 PM

    TP was molested as a boy? Wow. I had no idea! That does make some things make sense. Gotta applaud his courage to tell the world though.

    I agree with both of y’all in regards to TP overall. He is hiring black actors and I’ll always respect that…but I think R23 hit the nail on the head with his analysis of the portrayal of men. All PEOPLE are inherently bad, so I don’t wanna hear “black men really are like this” BS. we are all sinners. Black men have enough people painting them in a bad light at every turn, it’s called the entire media. TP isn’t original in this, he’s just dog-piling…if you only showed the bad people in any group (women, white men, etc) you’d be “right” bc those people exist, but TP would be just as “right” if he made every man in the movie a great guy.

    • primemeridian11

      November 21, 2010 at 6:31 PM

      Is he equally as wrong for his portrayals of black women? My point isn’t that he doesn’t show black men in a bad light. He shows them in all lights really. Black men say that he ONLY shows them in a bad light and that’s inaccurate.

  9. MYH

    November 21, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    Lol @ Secretariat.

    I love the title of the original play.

    @prime great answer to #5

  10. utpipeline

    November 21, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    Black people loved to be sensationalized. We love to talk back to the screen. We love to say “You go girl”. We love to say “No he didn’t”. We’re waiting on someone to make us mad, so we can say “If I was in that situation, I would cut him/her”. By your reviews (no offense) it seems like it has happened again with this movie. I can say TP knows what he’s doing with that!
    They stylistically did the rainbow in the play by having each woman respresenting a color in the spectrum (wearing that color and having a spot light on them of that color). Very artistic. My interpretation of the rainbow signifies the variations of the women (i.e. geographic regents) I think TP lost that when he put all the women in one building. He lost that sense of connection and could have done wonders if he would have set these women in different parts of the country or even the world and been creative and tided them all back together kind of like a crash. His smartest choice was to drop the rainbow when he didn’t know what to do with it. But I wouldn’t expect him to. His mind doesn’t reach that far.

    I would have loved to seen a female writer/director combo. Interpretation changes from paper to the director’s mind, so a woman can write all she wants to, but the intent changes when a male reads her word. For example, TP’s interpretation of the poem and the play. The connection with a female director as she directs a female actress would have been dynamic. But you can’t turn back the hands of time. TP has a name. He will bring in money.

    TP might employ black actors, but he treats them like dirt. I’ve heard this from multiple sources. He stole the Madea character from a lady I’ve personally worked with. Her orginal character was called Sister Canteloupe.'ccd‘ He had her in the plays but, at the last minute, decided it was cheaper for him to play Madea than to employee her.

    And lastly, TP isn’t the only one in Hollywood employing black actors. I work for a wonderful man named Je’Caryous Johnson that is doing it big. He has two stageplays on the road right now, and every actor is black. From Allen Payne to Jill Marie Johnson to Vivica Fox and Wendy Raquel Robinson. I’m not bias. I know good work. His process is beast. He has a lot of education. He’s been trained by some of the best and still knows the urban market.

    • primemeridian11

      November 21, 2010 at 6:34 PM

      I’ve seen some of his stuff. He is up and coming, but do you seriously think his stuff is better than Tyler Perry’s? You complain about quality all the time with TP. Je-Caryous produces better quality to you?

  11. Typo-Critical

    November 22, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    This is outSTANDING, just on presentation alone. So far, I’ve skimmed, because I want to come back when I’ve actually watched the movie.

    But I’m impressed and proud. Gosh.


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