Filmmaker Tyler Perry’s highly anticipated adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s classic 1975 work "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf" was released in theater’s nationwide last week. The response has been mixed, to put it lightly. Essence gave it a somewhat favorable review. The Hollywood Reporter? Not so much. After all, Perry is the director who gave us Mabel Simmons. Still, we’ve rounded up just a taste of what’s got the Web buzzing about one of the year’s most talked about films.
1. Prepare yourself. Critics and fans alike all agree that it’s an emotional ride. Whether that ride leaves you feeling triumphant about the struggles of womanhood or simply fuming at Perry’s re-make seems to be a matter of perspective. Bassey Ikpi even wrote a 5-point survival guide for the Huffington Post in which she says that seeing the film is probably a lot like eating a pack of Starbursts, but could very well open the door to female black filmmakers finally getting to tell their own stories–and getting funded for it.
2. Don’t compare the film with the original work. While that might sound like a lesson from the film’s most vocal critics, it’s actually a not-so-critical cue from Ntozake Shange, who’s been busy helping to promote the film in recent months. In an interview with TheGrio, Shange responded to accusations that the Perry remake cheapened the original work. "Darling my work used to be for free," Shange said.
3. It’s still a story for colored girls. Since the film hit theaters, Geneva S. Thompson at Clutch writes that there’s been some confusion over who makes up the film’s intended audience. Black women? Women of color, generally? Everyone? Make no mistake, writes Thompson. At its core, "For Colored Girls" is a black women’s story, and that doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. Thompson makes her case: "Now that this Black women’s work has been reappropriated, remixed and re-staged for the 21st century audience–and lest we forget with the critical expectancy to yield millions–it seems that being for the colored woman is no longer enuf."
4. There’s a lesson for black men, too. For Shange, that message to men is simple: "don’t beat on women," she said in an interview with TheGrio. The playwright and teacher says that men shouldn’t just watch the movie, they should bring a notepad and take pointers. That’s all fine and well, say critics, but Perry’s probably not the one to deliver the message. Courtland Milloy wrote for the Washington Post on Monday criticizing the director for portraying black men as "Satan’s gift to black women."
5. Expect the debate to continue. Tyler Perry is a film critic’s dream. A man who continues to make widely popular films despite bad reviews, and who injects God and melodrama into virtually every scene. Manohla Dargis writes for the New York Times that the "ferociously hostile reviews" seem "symptomatic of an insurmountable racial divide." But the film has already grossed upwards of $20 million on its opening weekend, and that figure’s even lower than his previous three films. Perry’s arguably the most powerful black director around–and unquestionably the most profitable. Whether you love him or hate him, he, and his films, are here to stay. The real question is how we choose to engage with his work.