I am ashamed to say that this was my very first time seeing the Steven Spielberg classic The Color Purple which saw the magnificent debuts of both Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, both of which received their first Oscar nominations for their roles in the film. Margaret Avery also picked up an Oscar nomination and I'm glad all three were honored in that way because the film 's strength comes mostly from the towering performances of all three.
The film centers around Celie, played by Goldberg, and the trials and tribulations she experiences as a young African American woman in the early 1900s. She is impregnated by her father, is sent off to live with an abusive man (terrifying played by Donald Glover), is separated from her younger sister, and is constantly made to believe she is ugly and worthless. Her life was like a ever-darkening sky, but little did she know that soon a spark of lightning will slowly, but surely bring her out of her sad shell.
It was one stormy night when she first laid eyes on Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) and despite a bad first impression, their friendship and relationship grew. Even before their fateful meeting, Shug has been a focus for Celie (while Celie herself is out of focus)...
And after Celie and the audience meets her, it's difficult to keep your eyes off of her especially with Avery infusing so much energy in the role. It also helps that she only wears bright costumes throughout most clearly evident in the scene where Shug entertains the masses in the juke joint.
A brilliant shiny pop of red amidst all of the earthly and darker tones. And it's directly after that scene that contains my favorite shot of the film. All throughout this merriment, Celie is quietly sitting, observing the fun all around her, but not partaking in it herself. Shug then surprises everyone by singing a song dedicated to Celie and it's just one of the moments of the film that you didn't know whether to cry or smile. Goldberg as Celie also couldn't make up her mind and that's why it's her reaction to Shug's serenade that will be etched in my mind...
My Best Shot
The sheer joy Goldberg is able to express even with her mouth covered and half her face obscured by shadows is a wonder. Many of my favorite shots in the film is of Celie smiling or laughing. Perhaps it's the optimist in me that honed in on all of the bright spots in a truly dramatic film. I'll end this post with one final shot and it's of Winfrey's Sofia, after spending years in jail and her joy of life beaten out of her, finally laughing again.
So damn cathartic.