REVIEW: For Colored Girls

22 07 2014

For Colored GirlsIf anyone thinks Tom Hooper’s “Les Misérables” was a feckless and bumbling adaptation of a theatrical show, let me direct you to Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” to see a real failure.  Granted, it’s a bird of a different color as Perry sets out to adapt Ntozake Shange’s “choreopoem” with the mouthful of a title “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf.”  But Shange’s bold and experimental work is transmuted into a set of clichés by Perry’s uninspired writing and direction.

To start, who thought Perry was a good choice to take on this work?  What qualifies the director of crude comedies like “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” to take on an iconoclastic work of theatre?  For all those who would argue that the quintessential Tyler Perry films have elements of drama, I raise the point that those sections are by far the weakest sections of his movies.  Perry’s movies play well with audiences because of the outrageous humor of Madea and his characters, not because of anything serious.

I am not familiar with the play, but there has to be some reason it has stuck around for decades.  I can only imagine Shange as a colored woman brought a certain amount of authenticity and urgency to the struggles of black women.  If what I suspect is true, Perry has turned the play’s strengths into unwatchable melodramatic mishmash.  The faux and unearned sympathy the movie tries to evoke fails on just about every level, and the two hours of “For Colored Girls” are thus miserable and interminable.

And I think Perry doesn’t even understand what the story is about in the first place.  He does less empowering of black women than he does evisceration of black men.  “For Colored Girls” should have been a celebration of the tenacity of African-American females and the community they always form during hardship.  Instead, it’s an opportunity for some of the best black actresses working in Hollywood to chew scenery in disconnected vignettes that Perry can’t make click.  D1star





REVIEW: Django Unchained

25 12 2012

Quentin Tarantino’s name is now a brand, one with hallmarks of dialogue and style widely recognized by all cinephiles.  It’s an accomplishment achieved not only by Tarantino’s incredible virtuosity but also by the scores of cheap rip-offs who have solidified his status as a major figure in film history.  Yet with “Django Unchained,” Tarantino proves that the greatest of all these impersonators is Tarantino himself.

The experience is not unlike that of watching “Jackie Brown,” the only other film of the Tarantino canon that “Django Unchained” manages to stand next to in quality.  Both films followed major artistic breakthroughs for him that scored with audiences and critics alike, “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglourious Basterds.”

But rather than use the forward momentum to lead to further exploration of his craft, Tarantino chose to take a victory lap fueled by the high of inhaling too much of the exhaust fumes of his own success.  “Django Unchained” just feels like Tarantino on autopilot, lacking the vibrancy or surprising eccentricity of his prior films.  There are plenty of laughs to be had, sure, but it just feels like far too much of the same stylized dialogue and aestheticized violence; popping in the DVD of “Reservoir Dogs” would probably yield more satisfaction.

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REVIEW: Mother and Child

19 12 2010

 

Most movies that we eagerly anticipate, we run out to see in theaters in the first few weeks of release.  Those that we leave for video are ones that we expect to be trash or those which we had no real desire to see in the first place.  Why do we have these low expectations?  Because, for the most part, Hollywood perpetuates them.  What we save to see on video is rarely any good.

But then again, with these low expectations, it’s just that much easier for a movie to sneak up and floor us.  Such is the case of “Mother and Child,” Rodrigo Garcia’s hyperlink drama intertwining three different stories of maternity.  As the style becomes slowly hackneyed by the system, it’s a nice ray of hope that someone can still get it right with a story built around three strong female characters and hard-hitting situations.

As Karen (Annette Bening) prepares herself for the imminent death of her mother, she can’t help but wonder what has become of the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 14.  As she and her mother were never particularly close, she finds herself overcome by guilt and wistfulness, wishing she could have the time back to repair the mother-daughter relationship.  It doesn’t help things that Karen discovers post mortem her mother found the daughter of their Hispanic maid to be more like her child.

Then, there’s Elizabeth (Naomi Watts), whose hard-knock childhood has led her to be a family-spiting woman driven only by rationalism and furthering her career.  Her life is exactly as she wants it to be: unsentimental and free of unnecessary relationships.  But love finds a way into her life in the form of her boss, Paul (Samuel L. Jackson), and she soon finds that what she avoided for so long arrives on her doorstep.

Dead-set on adopting a child, infertile Lucy (Kerry Washington) has her mind on nothing else but becoming a mother.  Desperate to feel that maternal bond, she lets her marriage fall by the wayside in the mere hope that Ray (Shareeka Epps) will give her the child inside her womb.  The need to be a mother ultimately drives her to emotional extremes that alarm her friends and family.

Bening, Watts, and Washington all turn in performances so emotionally charged that it stings.  They bring so much passion and feeling to the project, and it exudes from the screen like a bright beam of light.  But it’s Garcia’s script, so thoughtful, beautiful, and heartbreaking that “Mother and Child” makes for one emotionally wrenching watch.  Providing three distinct takes on what it means to be a mother, it’s a deeply moving moviewatching experience – even sitting on a couch. A-