The Color Purple

Released:  1985

Cast:  Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Adolph Caesar, Rae Dawn Chong

Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture, Best Actress (Whoopi Goldberg), Best Supporting Actress (Margaret Avery), Best Supporting Actress (Oprah Winfrey), Best Adapted Screenplay (Menno Meyjes), Best Cinematography (Allen Daviau), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (J. Michael Riva, Bo Welch, Linda DeScenna), Best Costume Design (Aggie Guerard Rodgers), Best Makeup (Ken Chase), Best Music, Original Score (Quincy Jones, Jeremy Lubbock, Rod Temperton, Caiphus Semenya, Andrae Crouch, Chris Boardman, Jorge Calandrelli, Joel Rosenbaum, Fred Steiner, Jack Hayes, Jerry Hey, Randy Kerber), Best Original Song (“Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” – Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, Lionel Richie)

SUMMARY:  Celie Harris (Whoopi Goldberg) is a poor African-American woman living in the Southern United States in the early 1900s.  She is repeatedly sexually assaulted by her father, and eventually has two children by him (both of which he takes away).  At a young age, she is married to a widower she calls “Mister” (Danny Glover), who treats Celie much as her father did.  By this time, Celie has become nearly silent.  Celie’s sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) comes to live with the couple for a short time, but is forced out by Mister.  Before leaving, Nettie promises to write to Celie.

One night, Mister’s old girlfriend Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) (whom he still loves) shows up at the door, so sick that she’s delirious.  She recovers at Mister and Celie’s house, and stays on after she gets better.  Despite her affection for Mister, Shug helps Celie become more confident, and the two rebel against Mister in subtle ways.  Another strong female presence in Celie’s life is Sofia (Oprah Winfrey), who is married to Mister’s son Harpo.  Sofia has also experienced a lot of abuse, but she refuses to tolerate it; this attitude eventually lands her in jail.

Nettie is shown to have been living with missionaries in Africa, all the while sending letters to Celie.  However, Mister has taken and hidden all these letters, and Celie knows nothing about them.  One day, Celie and Shug find the letters, and the resulting anger leads Celie to nearly kill Mister.  At a family dinner, Celie finally stands up to Mister, and Shug announces that she is leaving and taking Celie with her.  Celie moves to Tennessee, where she opens a clothing store.  After her father dies, she is left with a large property inheritance:  she moves to the house, and opens another store in town.  Meanwhile, Mister is finally overcome by guilt, and arranges for Nettie and the rest of Celie’s family (including her two children) to return to the United States.  At the end of the movie, Celie is finally able to meet her two children, and she and Nettie are reunited.

MY TAKE:  If you have every watched a Tyler Perry movie or play, you need to watch this movie.  Tyler Perry makes a TON of references to this movie (he particularly likes to do Oprah’s famous line about Harpo), but you probably you won’t get them unless you watch it.

Parts of this movie are hard to watch, because life (and the people in it) has been extremely cruel to Celie.  Happily, pretty much everybody in this movie gets what’s coming to them:  Sofia is able to regain her spunk, Mister and his farm fall into disrepair, and Celie is finally happy.  It’s hard to understand how this movie didn’t win any of the Oscars it was nominated for, particularly the acting ones for Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.  I was used to seeing Whoopi in very loud, out-there roles, but she was incredible in this as a woman who is extremely withdrawn and barely talks.

RATING:  A great movie with a happy ending.

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