The Color Purple (1985)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
I didn’t expect to get so close to tears. The Color Purple is the sentimental Steven Spielberg classic I’m referring to, one that made me both sniffle and smile uncontrollably. With a well-known cast (but mainly in retrospect), the movie starred a young Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, as well as Danny Glover, with a brief (two seconds, tops) appearance by an unrecognizably young Lawrence “Larry” Fishburne. Alice Walker, writer of the novel off which the film was based, co-wrote the screenplay with Menno Myjes (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, who stars this man. I’m just searching for self-promotional links, forgive me).
The story follows Celie (A fantastic Goldberg, more on that later), a young African-American girl in the South, from 1909 to 1937. After being sold to Albert Johnson (Glover), a local man intending to buy her sister Nattie (Akosua Busia), Celie lives a life of abuse and hardship. Albert tears her apart from her sister, the only one that truly loved her. When Shug Avery (Margaret Avery, Meet the Browns), a singer that Celie adored, pays a visit to Albert (they had been an item, but no longer), Celie finally finds someone else on her side. But can Shug help Celie escape the clutches of her husband? Shug is torn between her former lover and her new friend. I want you to see the film, so disclosing anymore of the extremely complex (and fairly long) film is not an option.
Whoopi Goldberg. What more must I say? She is brilliant in the role, playing Celie with the look of naivety, illiteracy, lack of self-esteem, and innate sadness that her character requires of her. She reminds me of a puppy that feels guilty after peeing inside (it’s a complete compliment). She was nominated for an Oscar for the role, but unfortunately not even one of the film’s 11 nominations came up successful. Goldberg, in her first real motion picture appearance (she had been in a rather unknown movie, titled Citizen, three years prior), shines as Celie, a girl begging to be loved. The audience must provide that, her role is too touching to resist.
Danny Glover is also spectacular. He’s mean, he’s demanding, he’s creepy…perfect for his role as Al. The young Glover begs, on the contrary, to be hated, and most viewers are none to discontent to oblige. Oprah, whose character marries Albert’s son Harpo (read it backward, major coincidence?), also received an Oscar nomination for her role as Sofia. She was amazing, but in an interesting way, much different than Goldberg or Glover. Her role was strong, powerful, but turned to desperate and afraid. We don’t know whether to love her, hate her, or both. Margaret Avery is great as the brightest star around, Shug Avery. Her singing bolstered the role, and the movie, and the final scene made me smile without even knowing my mouth muscles were working.
What more can I say? The classic demands to be seen, it’s a powerful view of life from director Steven Spielberg and novelist Alice Walker. The Color Purple is in most libraries; rent it for free, it’s worth it.