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Powerful Colour Purple
TheLittleSongbird16 January 2017
Alice Walker's book is truly riveting, being hard-hitting, powerful and incredibly poignant. Anybody who hasn't yet read it, it is very highly recommended.

In 1985, a film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg was released garnering several well-deserved Oscar nominations but sadly winning none. While the book is more detailed and has more depth, and the film is not quite as hard-hitting (though hardly sugar-coated and definitely not Disneyfied), this is in no way denouncing a wonderful early effort from Spielberg.

Not quite one of his best films (not among his worst either), but, despite the worry as to whether his style would mesh with the tone of the story told, 'The Color Purple' is a strong sign of Spielberg taking on a very mature subject early on in his career (being before 'Schindler's List') and making a film, that regardless of how it compares to the source material, that's still powerful and moving. For me its only fault is that for my tastes everything felt too neatly wrapped up at the end.

Spielberg directs impeccably however, under him the powerful drama never gets heavy-handed despite that it easily could have done and it is also genuinely poignant without falling into over-sentimentality that Spielberg has often been criticised for. 'The Color Purple' looks wonderful, being exquisitely shot and with evocative production design.

Quincy Jones' score works remarkably well too, one that sears and soars with ease without being jarring or intrusive. The script provokes a lot of thought and has a lot of honesty and emotion. The hard-hitting story is as hoped told powerfully and movingly, not trivialising the horrors of its themes and the consequences of what happens to the characters.

Whoopi Goldberg was rarely better than she is in 'The Color Purple', a wonderful performance with her face and eyes telling so much and one can really see how much damage what she went through has done. Danny Glover is sublimely nasty in one of his best performances worthy of an award nomination but overlooked. Pre-TV career Oprah Winfrey is in a different role, and does remarkably well, while Margaret Avery is affecting.

Overall, a powerful and moving film, a worthy adaptation of an even better book. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Way Too Safe and Cute for Its Own Good
Michael_Elliott10 September 2012
The Color Purple (1985)

** (out of 4)

Alice Walker's novel about a mistreated black woman (Whoopi Goldberg) takes us through her life from the years of 1909 to 1947. Along the way we see the abusive relationship with her husband (Danny Glover) as well as with a woman (Oprah Winfrey) who starts building a little courage in her. THE COLOR PURPLE is hailed by many to be a complete masterpiece but to me I found it way too pretty for its own good. I'm going to place 100% of the blame on director Steven Spielberg because I think he simply made this film way too pretty with way too many melodramatic moments and moments where he just seems to be reaching for the sky. When I say he's reaching for the sky, I'm basically saying that he wants every single scene to be some sort of major, emotional pay-off and it just doesn't work because it makes the material seem over-dramatic and fake. There really wasn't a single moment in this film where I had an emotional connection to because Spielberg wanted every single scene to be something epic. Usually these big moments happen at the end of the film or there might be two or three scattered throughout the running time. With this film trying to have one every minute, whenever something big does happen it's power is just drained from everything else that has been going on. I also think the film runs on way too long as there are so many sequences that could have been cut and they wouldn't have hurt the main story. What keeps the film moving are the terrific performances with Goldberg and Winfrey really standing out with their wonderful work. Glover is also very effective in his bit, although I'd say he was underwritten throughout the picture as just the villain. The cinematography here as well as the costume designs are major pluses but in the end THE COLOR PURPLE is just too safe for its own good.
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Saccharine sentimentality
Leofwine_draca16 September 2021
A good novel to adapt but Spielberg's saccharine sentimentality overwhelms the whole thing and makes it tough at times. That it remains enjoyable is purely down to the talents of the actors involved, particularly Goldberg and Glover.
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good work from Whoopi
SnoopyStyle28 September 2014
Celie Johnson (Whoopi Goldberg) grows up in the south during the early 20th century. By the time she's 14 years old, she's already given birth twice by her abusive father. She is married off to "Mister" Albert Johnson (Danny Glover) who abuses her and uses her more like a slave to take care of his bratty kids. Her younger sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) comes to stay but she rejects Mister once too many times. He kicks her out. Then the outspoken Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) who marries Albert's son Harpo (Willard E. Pugh) comes into Celie's life. Mister's lover Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) stays with them and befriends Celie. It also turns out that Nettie has been living with missionaries in Africa and sending letters to Celie but Mister has been keeping them from her.

I feel worn out by the overwhelming oppression that befalls Celie. Steven Spielberg does it with a light touch that keeps it from being dark and sullen. Nevertheless I feel for Celie and suffer along side her. It's a big melodramatic farce period piece. I won't go as far as saying that this is one big stereotype. It does lack a certain realism. It feels like a folk tale. It says something about women empowerment. For that good intention and the expert production, it's a movie worth watching.
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Officially now a classic!
mark.waltz8 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Even though this made some changes from Alice Walker's novel that made some audience members and critics furious, this is still one of the best films to come out of the 1980's. As the revival of the hit Broadway musical version trods the boards of New York once again, a return visit to it is necessary as is the need for me to see this beautiful film once again.

The cruelty of most of the male characters keeps the tragic prone Celie away from her beloved sister Nettie and her two illegitimate children, fathered through rape and cruelly taken away from her at birth. Celie, allegedly ugly, and Nettie, a sweet but strong beauty, are separated twice-first by their abusive father, and later by Mister, the demanding husband Celie is forced to marry simply to be his slave. Watching the shy, insecure Whoopie Goldberg suffer the way she does is often heartbreaking, and hers was one of the strongest film debuts in Hollywood history.

In spite of her circumstances, Goldberg's Celie adds a sly smile to her persona, devoted (or at least fearful) to husband Danny Glover in spite of his cruelty. She may hate him, but she gets to know him inside out, even aiding him as he prepares to meet his sexy mistress, Margaret Avery. Whoopie gets a boisterous step daughter in law in portly Oprah Winfrey (another film debut) who along with Avery becomes Goldberg's guardian angel when they see Celie's true inner beauty. In spite of her relationship with Glover, Avery's Shug comes to understand the importance of sisterhood, creating a beautiful bond between these complicated women.

Not all of the men are as nasty as Celie and Nettie's papa. Even Glover's Mister has his soft side, and as his cruelties catch up to him which he must atone for, he makes a choice of retribution that certainly saves his soul. Glover may be an s.o.b., but there are layers hidden beneath his brutality. Willard Pugh is the most likable, but he is a bit of a buffoon. His Harpo is no match for Winfrey's sometimes obnoxious Sophia, and often their relationship doesn't seem real. It also makes no sense that Celie, a victim herself, would shyly advise Harpo to beat Sophia. Winfrey comes to life in her confrontation with Goldberg, and her performance is heartbreaking when she is beaten up for saying "Hell no!" to flibbertigibbet white matron Dana Ivey who wants Oprah as her maid. Stage veteran Ivey shows several different angles to this do-gooder who may have sweet intentions, but causes more harm than good. Adolph Caesar is appropriately obnoxious as Glover's father (showing the audience some of the reasons that Glover turned out the way he did), while Rae Dawn Chong is bubble headed, but ultimately showing strength, as Squeak who finds out that "Fine by me" ain't so fine for her.

The colors of the country are enhanced by Quincy Jones' excellent musical score. Two songs are thrown in, but neither were in the musical. Director Steven Spielberg was snubbed for an Oscar nomination in one of the biggest scandals in Academy Award history. There's no denying that professional jealousy was partly behind it. How a film which details triumph over tragedy could be completely overlooked for even one award remains a mystery to this day. The triumphs of the finale will have you in tears. Make sure you have a full box of Kleenex out. Regardless of how many times you've seen this, the tears are absolutely going to flow.
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"Yes indeed Lord. I know something's coming."
classicsoncall10 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
It's difficult not getting emotional watching this film. The principal characters suffer racism, sexism, physical and mental abuse, and in Celie Johnson's (Whoopi Goldberg) case, the loss of a sister and theft of her children while a victim of rape. I don't know if it could possibly be worse for anyone, much less a person of color. The story is heart rending yet inspirational at the same time, as Celie perseveres through her misfortunes to become a person of noble character and inner strength. The race between her mentor Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) and the clock in that scene when Celie was about to shave or cut her husband's throat was one of the heart pounding moments of the film. Knowing what happened to Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) for sassing a white woman and knocking down the woman's husband, it would have been one of those life defining moments had she followed through on her righteous anger. A talented cast and an engaging story brought the movie a total of eleven Oscar nominations, and quite astonishingly, not a single win. The film's title implies that it's impossible to feel sad in a field full of purple flowers, and in it's closing moments, dares to remind us that even the worst of life's disappointments can give way to redemption and joy.
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Wasn't For Me
gavin69423 June 2016
A black Southern woman (Whoopi Goldberg) struggles to find her identity after suffering years of abuse from her father and others over forty years.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film four stars, calling it "the year's best film." He also praised Whoopi Goldberg, calling her role "one of the most amazing debut performances in movie history" and predicting she would win the Academy Award for Best Actress. (She was nominated but did not win.) Now, with all due respect to Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover... this film just did not appeal to me. Not that anyone was bad, but I just never really got into it. I suspect this has something to do with Spielberg, and his need to be overly sentimental. Something about this film seemed like it was cynically designed to trigger emotions rather than achieve them organically.
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It's hard to believe that this was Whoopi Goldberg's feature debut.
lee_eisenberg8 March 2006
Taking a break from his escapist run in the early '80s, Steven Spielberg directed Whoopi Goldberg in an adaptation of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple", about about the desperate existence of an African-American woman in the 1930s. Watching Goldberg play Celie, it's incredible that this is the same woman who starred in movies like "Sister Act". This is the sort of movie that could easily be - no, make that SHOULD BE - part of the curriculum in Black Studies and Women's Studies. There's one scene that may be the most magnificent editing job that's ever been on screen (you'll know it when you see it). I can't believe that this didn't win a single Oscar; it may be Spielberg's second best movie behind "Schindler's List" (maybe even tied with it). Also starring Danny Glover, Adolph Caesar, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Willard E. Pugh, Akosua Busia, and Laurence Fishburne.
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The Color Purple
jboothmillard12 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
From Golden Globe nominated director Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan), I remember watching about half of this film in college, but I didn't remember it well and never finished it, it was probably the first film I ever saw dominated by African American stars, so I watched it again. Basically, set in the Southern United States between the 1900's to mid-1930's, at seventeen years old Celie Harris (Desreta Jackson) has given birth to two children, after suffering abuse and rape from her father Pa Harris (Leonard Jackson), he has taken both of them away from her. Local farmer 'Mister' Albert Johnson (Danny Glover) wants to marry Celie's younger sister Nettie (Akosua Busia), but their father refuses to let her be wed, so he lets him have Celie. Mister neglects and abuses her as they live together, and he forces her to be his slave, cleaning the house, shaving him and making his meals, and then Nettie comes to live with the because of their father continuing to be incestuous. After failing to have his way with Nettie, Albert angrily forces her out and away, never to come back, leaving Celie distraught, but she promises to write to her until death, of course she never receives any. Years pass, Celie (introducing Golden Globe winning, and Oscar nominated Whoopi Goldberg) is now a woman still forced to have a miserable life, but she keeps to cope with her routine, while her still sometimes abusive husband has a lover with jazz singer Shug Avery (Oscar nominated Margaret Avery). Celie and Shug do become friends though, and her confidence is lifted, they even begin an affair themselves, and she also finds a friendship with Sofia (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Oprah Winfrey) who is also beaten badly, but she fights against it. As the years have passed and no letters have come for her, Celie has believed that Nettie may be dead, but in fact she been living in Africa with missionaries, she and Shug find dozens of her letters hidden away. After almost slitting his throat, it is after a dinner, with a permanently disfigured Sofia attending, that Celie finally finds the strength to stand up to and leave Albert. She explains that she knows he kept the letters hidden from her, and she, Shug, Shug's husband Grady (Bennet Guillory) and Squeak (Commando's Rae Dawn Chong) - girlfriend of Albert's son Harpo (Willard E. Pugh), are coming with her. Finding a new peaceful life in Tennessee, and opening a new "one size fits all" clothes shop, Celie finds out that her father was not her biological father, but her stepfather, and she inherited the shop and a house from her real father. Albert meanwhile has let Celie's hateful words get to him, and he has realised he really was bad to her, guilt finally catches up with him, and unknown to his ex- wife, he pays his money to immigration to arrange a reunion with her sister. In the end Celie is tearful and overjoyed as she and Nettie are finally reunited, as well as Celie's two grown up children, son Adam (Peto Kinsaka) and daughter Olivia (Lelo Masamba), Albert smiles from a distance, and Shug smiles at him for doing the right thing, Celie and Nettie play their childhood hand clapping game as the sun sets. Also starring Dana Ivey as Miss Millie, Laurence Fishburne as Swain, John Patton Jr. as Preacher and Carl Anderson as Reverend Samuel. In her first screen performance Goldberg is superb as the leading character living through the years of abuse, standing up to it, and of course finding hope in the company of others, Glover is great as the nasty husband who beats and mistreats her, Avery does very well with her singing and being sympathetic, Winfrey - before her chat show began - is terrific as the also beaten wife who can defend herself, and the other cast members do well too. Spielberg is a good choice as director, because it was apparently a difficult novel to make into a mainstream film, but it is done without becoming too glossy, it is done with great dignity and aplomb, a most impressive period drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Music for Quincy Jones and many more, Best Song for "Miss Celie's Blues (Sister)", Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and Best Picture, it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it was nominated the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Original Score. Steven Spielberg was number 56 on The 100 Greatest Pop Culture Icons, the film was number 48 on The 100 Greatest Tearjerkers, and it was number 51 on 100 Years, 100 Cheers. Very good!
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Vintage Spielberg In Both The Good & Bad
ccthemovieman-127 January 2007
As with many Steven Spielberg films, this is a beautiful-looking movie, scene-after-scene almost looking like paintings. To me, that was the main attraction of the movie because the story - although powerful - to me, wasn't as appealing as the rich visuals. It's also one of those films almost guaranteed to bring a tear or two to ones eyes at the end.

This is much more involving story if you are a woman or black person, because you can relate more to the characters in the film. As with typical Hollywood, political correctness rules: most of the men (white or black) are bad while the women (mostly black) are all good. If you are a male watching the movie, this bias in the story can be very annoying.

Individually, I remember first watching this (I've seen it a couple of times) and being surprised what a good actress Oprah Winfrey was, and how appealing was Whoopi Goldberg's character "Celie." Goldberg became a star after this film (also for her comedy appearances on TV) but I always thought this role was, by far, her best or, at the least, her most appealing.

Rae Dawn Chong never looked prettier and Margaret Avery played a real charmer. Danny Glover was effectively nasty. You wanted to punch his lights out!

Overall, expect for what I mentioned above, this was good storytelling and certainly an involving, emotional story.
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Too careful and slick overall, but undeniably moving...
moonspinner552 October 2005
Steven Spielberg's too-bright, overlong, slickly-designed adaptation of Alice Walker's book about a repressed black woman in the old South living at the mercy of her brutish husband, mourning her separation from her beloved sister, and having a flirtatious friendship with a sexy female singer who passes through town. Spielberg guides the viewer through the crowded script quickly and with ease, and the introductions to the characters are jazzy and direct; but, whereas the director is terrifically at home with his cast, he doesn't seem to know how to stage this story. It's mounted like "Gone With the Wind", with a sweeping grandeur that treats the material with cartoonish reverence. Results are both moving and sticky, with finely-wrought sequences quickly followed by banal whimsy and heartache. Whoopi Goldberg is terrific in the lead, and some of the dialogue has a haunting, evocative feel, but we're never aware of this as anything but a movie, staged and mechanically set-up to wring tears. **1/2 from ****
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Color this Excellent-The Color Purple ****
edwagreen3 January 2010
Color this 1985 film as excellent. Steven Spielberg's film was literally robbed of the Oscar for best picture. "Out of Africa" was the winner and was a far inferior film to this one.

Our heroine, Whoopi Goldberg received a well-deserved best actress nomination for the ignorant girl Cele. She lost the Oscar to Geraldine Page, the perennial Oscar loser, who finally won for "The Trip to Bountiful." In a very close observation, Page was better but Goldberg gave her all in this meaningful picture.

Black men certainly were depicted here as slave drivers, mean and rotten to the core regarding the lives of the women they came in contact with. Brutal is basically the word to be described that women such as Cele, Shug (Margaret Avery) and Oprah Winfrey, as Sofia, endured in this film. All received acting nominations and they were all outstanding.

This is truly a gritty remembrance of the black experience. Redemption comes at the end of this superlative film.
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A Masterpiece
sunwarrior1326 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple is a richly-textured, powerful film set in America's rural south. Whoopi Goldberg makes a triumphant screen debut as the radiant, indomitable Celie, the story's central character. Her impressive portrayal is complimented by a distinguished cast that includes Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Adolph Caesar, Rae Dawn Chong and Akosua Busia.It was directed by Steven Spielberg.

The film spans the years 1909 to 1949, relating the life of Celie, a Southern black woman virtually sold into a life of servitude to her brutal husband, sharecropper Albert. She pours out her innermost thoughts in letter form to her sister Nettie but Albert has been hiding the letters Nettie writes back, allowing Celie to assume that Nettie is dead. Finally, Celie finds a champion in the don't-take-no-guff Sofia, the wife of Glover's son from a previous marriage. Alas, Sofia is brought back to reality when she is beaten into submission by angry whites. Later, Celie is able to forge a strong friendship with Albert's mistress Shug. Emboldened by this, Celie begins rifling through her husband's belongings and finds Nettie's letters. Able at last to stand up to her husband, Celie leaves him to search for a new life on her own.

Spielberg, proving he's one of the few modern filmmakers who has the visual fluency to be capable of making a great silent film, took a melodramatic approach to filming. His tactics made the it controversial, but also a popular hit. You can argue with the appropriateness of his decision, but his astonishing facility with images is undeniable.It is a great, warm, hard, unforgiving, triumphant movie, and there is not a scene that does not shine with the love of the people who made it.Truly,a sentimental tale that reveals great emotional truths in American history.
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bevo-136782 April 2020
Great coming of age romantic comedy with a star studded cast.
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Interesting, emotional drama
grantss10 May 2020
Georgia, 1909. With an abusive father, the only person who 14-year old Celie cares for and loves is her younger sister Nettie. Then Celie is married off to Albert Johnson, a brutal, uncaring man. After an incident between Nettie and Albert, Albert bans Nettie from his property and it appears that Celie may never see her again.

An interesting, emotional, epic drama directed by Steven Spielberg. Very engaging, as we follow Celie's life, its trials and tribulations, ups and downs. The abuses she suffers at the hands of her father and husband are a harrowing ordeal. There's also some interesting sub-plots with the Sophia / Oprah Winfrey one highlighting the racism and injustice of the times.

Despite the long running time (2 ½ hours) the movie moves along fairly well and generally doesn't feel that long. There are perhaps one or two scenes which could have been cut but the film doesn't feel padded.

Performances are all first-rate with Whoopi Goldberg to the fore as Celie. She received a Best Leading Actress Oscar nomination for her efforts. Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey received Best Supporting Actress nominations.

Another feature of the film is the excellent soundtrack, written and produced by Quincy Jones. A great mix of blues and gospel.

All in all The Color Purple received 11 Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, but, unfortunately, didn't win in any category. This is the record for most Oscar nominations without a win, held jointly with The Turning Point (1977).
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Spielberg for the first time showing different new colors as a director.
Boba_Fett11382 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As much as I love Spielberg, I never have been too fond of his more dramatic movie attempts. The drama in his movies often feels very melodramatic. This movie was his first real, straight-forward, dramatic endeavor and though I also have some real problems with this movie, people seem to forget and fail to see that as far as the genre goes, this still truly is one excellent movie. People look at this movie and see that it's not up to Spielberg's usual high standards of entertainment and film-making but that doesn't mean at all that this movie is an horrible one.

There is simply no denying it that this is a skillfully made movie. It has all of the right settings and actors in it, as well as a compelling dramatic story, that focuses mainly on an African American woman, living and trying to survive life in the early 1900's America. She has to face lots of ordeals, such as the forced split-up of her and her sister that she was incredibly close with, taking beatings and rape. It's not necessarily a movie about racism, though it still plays some part in the story but it's more one that focuses on African American society, in rural areas, in the early 1900's and on its women and their position in particular. It follows its characters for some decades. Some things change for them, while others keep remaining the same. It's a good character driven drama with a compelling story, that ensures that the movie is always going and good to watch, even though the movie is being a bit of a long sit.

It really is a movie that foremost works out thanks to its characters and actors that are portraying them. Amazingly enough two of its key characters are being played by débutantes; Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey but what a fine debut it was! Both are truly excellent and its hard to recognize them in this movie, not necessarily because they look different and younger but more because of their performances, that is unlike anything they have ever done since. I truly wish Whoopi Goldberg would had continued playing more roles like this, instead of choosing a more comical career. How different her career must have been but she wanted to stay loyal to her comical background instead, which is of course her right to do. But with all this talking about Winfrey and Goldberg, people tend to forget how great Danny Glover is being in this movie as well. But this is also only because the movie is being a sort of ode to African American woman and their strength and also tells the story from their perspective.

It all combined ensures that "The Color Purple" has something that a good drama requires; some good powerful emotions and drama. It's a touching movie that perhaps goes a bit over-the-top at times but overall as a whole still works out as some powerful and memorable.

Can't say I'm too fond about its last 30 minutes though. The movie tries to desperately to wrap everything up needly. Everything ends well for the 'good' guys and gals and the 'bad' ones end up badly. It feels a bit forced, as if Spielberg was too afraid to that his movie would end on a downer and would leave its audience depressed. This is actually something quite a lot of Spielberg movies suffer from; they desperately try to end on a positive and uplifting note. Even "Schindler's List" somewhat does!

It's far from my favorite Spielberg movie and it's also far from the best thing he has ever done but this movie still remains one fine, effective, powerful 'colored' drama, that by the way still really is missing a John Williams musical score.

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Movie was Better than Book
view_and_review15 August 2019
The Color Purple, to me, is one of those rare movies that is better than the book. All of the performances were excellent and I think none were better than Danny Glover as Mister aka Albert. He was so good at being such a horrible human being.

Some of the broader themes from the book were a bit muted in the movie. It was still about Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) and her plight and that couldn't be missed. What was toned down was the lesbianism on the part of Celie as well as the misandry. The book is filled with both overt and subtle misandry to the point that you get the clear impression that the author herself hates men. There's hardly a man in the book that is free of being some type of oppressor of women.

The movie never conveyed that as much as it conveyed Celie's horrible experiences with her father and her husband. Kudos for whoever adapted it for the big screen because it became a better production.
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God Help Us All When Spielberg Feels Guilty About Something
evanston_dad8 April 2008
Well zip-a-dee-doo-dah, I kept expecting Uncle Remus to come bounding out of the bushes while watching Steven Spielberg's screen adaptation of the Alice Walker novel.

In retrospect, Spielberg shouldn't have been let near this story with a ten-foot pole. His maudlin, well-intentioned approach to liberal message movies is completely at odds with Walker's spare, unsentimental storytelling. But, all in all, the results could have been much worse. Yes, Spielberg paints a painfully one-dimensional picture of poor blacks in the 1930s South. Yes, his way of exorcising his white guilt is to make the sole white character in the movie (played by Dana Ivey) a dithery twit, and his way of dealing with Walker's feminist elements is to make all of the male characters idiot buffoons. But the movie does have its good points, like a luminous performance from Whoopi Goldberg in the role of Celie, the ugly young woman who finds the beauty within herself, and an equally lovely performance from Margaret Avery, the sultry nightclub singer who helps Celie with her awakening. Oprah Winfrey huffs and puffs her way through a caricature of a performance as Sofia, the big black woman who goes around telling people what's what.

Mr. Money Bags Spielberg ensures that the film has top-notch production values, and indeed it does look beautiful, and Quincy Jones provides a warm, pleasant score.

Not the stunning film that could have been made from such good source material, but not a disaster either.

Grade: B+
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One of the greatest Oscar snubs in history
HotToastyRag5 October 2021
I've read the book, and Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Menno Meyjes turned it into a masterpiece. There's so much they added to the story, so much they cut out, so much they enhanced, that it almost defies description. I know there are those out there who really appreciate the novel, but there's one thing we can all agree on: The Color Purple got shafted at the Academy Awards. The eleven nominations (without Best Director, if you can believe it) should have swept up the ceremony, but instead it remains one of the worst snubs in history.

One of the signs of an excellent movie is that no matter how many times you watch it, you still get more out of it. I've seen this movie more times than I can count (it was even shown on the big screen for study material at film school), and I always find something new that the filmmakers or actors did to make the finished product perfect. It's so perfect that if Hollywood remakes it for added popularity during the current social climate, I won't even rent it. Certain movies, like The Great Gatsby, should be left alone when there's no room for improvement.

Believe it or not, there are youngsters out there who have never seen this movie and don't even know what it's about. When they do watch it, they'll in for quite a shock - no, not because of the extremely heavy storyline that starts its opening scene with the pre-teen protagonist giving birth to a baby incested by her father - the shock young folks will find is with the cast. The funny lady on The View was actually an incredible actress once upon a time? That nice old guy who always whispers played villains thirty years ago? And world-famous Oprah once took a supporting role? It's always fascinating when people have a generational career. The first movie my best friend saw Danny Glover in was The Color Purple, and she was scared of him for years. I didn't see this movie until I was much older, and by that time I only thought of him as the nice guy from Dreamgirls. When we look back and see these performances from the women in the cast, it's such a shame that they weren't continuously offered such meaty roles. Oprah took a different path that led to being a world-famous icon, but if she'd been given more chances to show off her acting chops, she might not have left Hollywood. Whoopi Goldberg's performance was so vivid, painful, and real, her make-up Oscar for Ghost was a terrible insult. She was relegated to comic relief parts when she was capable of so much more. Playing a character who has to stuff her feelings inside and also act them large enough for the camera to see is quite a challenge. Aging onscreen and letting the audience see the toll the years have taken on her is difficult, and balancing all the different feelings she has towards all the different characters is complicated and complex. This was a tour-de-force, and the Academy rewarded her by saying, "Nope. You should stay in subservient roles playing kooky characters the audience can laugh at."

Danny Glover also had a difficult character to work with, since he was the villain. A great villain isn't truly evil, but instead becomes human and makes the audience understand him. When we see the relationship he has with his father, Adolph Caesar, we understand his need to bully. When we see his insecurity and desire to please his mistress, Margaret Avery, we understand the inner torment he lives with every day. Margaret has her own intense family problems she holds in her heart, but rather than inflict her pain on someone else, she channels it into healing and support for others.

I love the scene transitions in this movie; they flow so seamlessly that even though you're aware you're watching a movie, you can't really imagine the lights, boom mic, and camera capturing everything. But since there was all that equipment and technical work behind what we're seeing, we owe a great compliment to Steven Spielberg. His sensitivity to get such wonderful performances from his actors, the detail of his eye to fill the frame with authentic looking props, sets, and costumes, and keeping the big picture in mind while filming all the little pictures; he had an enormous burden on his shoulders every single day he worked on this film. With a movie so full of intense drama, it would have been easy to turn it into a melodrama with every scene featuring a massive catastrophe. Instead, he kept everything realistic and tame, letting the emotions speak for themselves. Thank you, Mr. Spielberg, for your beautiful work.

Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to adult content, I wouldn't let my kids see it until they were at least 16.
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A Remarkable Film!
namashi_122 September 2010
Steven Spielberg's supremacy is once again proved with his 1985 classic 'The Color Purple'. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker, comes out A Remarkable Film in all respects. The legendary filmmaker takes a difficult subject in hand, dealing with poverty, racism, and sexism. And he doesn't go wrong!

'The Color Purple' tells the story of a poor African American girl named Celie and shows the problems African American women faced during the early 1900s.

Let me inform you, 'The Color Purple' is not an easy film to watch. It's a dark film, dealing with domestic-violence and color-discrimination. It's not a gory film, but it has it's share of shortcomings, that can not be erased out.

Steven Spielberg's direction is brilliant. He handles the subject with no insecurities. Menno Meyjes's Screenplay is grim and completely justificational. Allen Daviau's Cinematogrpahy is of top-grade. Michael Kahn's Editing is good.

In the acting department, Oprah Winfrey is outstanding in a challenging role. She completely gives her herself to the character. Whoopi Goldberg is superb. She proves her range yet again! Danny Glover does not deliver. And what's with the accent? Margaret Avery, in a role that has layers, is wonderful. Akosua Busia is first-rate. Desreta Jackson who plays the child portions of Whoopi, is marvelous.

On the whole, 'The Color Purple' is a great show. Without any doubts, Two Thumbs Up!
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A White Supremacist's Wet Dream
tieman6425 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Spielberg loves the smell of sentiment in the morning. But sentiment at the expense of narrative honesty? Nobody should love that." - Lucius Shepard

Set in the Deep South during the early 1900s, "The Color Purple" opens with Celie and Nettie, two African American sisters. They're playing in a field of purple flowers, an idyllic haven which is promptly shattered by the appearance of their stepfather. This motif – innocence interrupted by men – permeates the entire film.

Director Steven Spielberg then launches into a series of short sequences. Celie is revealed to have been twice impregnated by her stepfather, gives birth in a dirty barn, has her newborn child taken away and is forced to marry local widow Albert Johnson, a violent oaf who repeatedly rapes her, forces her to cook, clean and look after his children.

All these horrific scenes are given little screen time, and are surrounded by moments of pixie-dust cinematography, a meddlesome symphonic score, incongruous comedy and overly exuberant camera work. The cumulative effect is like the merging of a Disney cartoon and a rape movie, a jarring aesthetic which caused Stanley Kubrick to remark that "The Color Purple" made him so nauseated that he had to turn it off after ten minutes. Ten minutes? He lasted a long time.

The film is often said to deal which "racism", "sexism" and "black culture", but this isn't true. Alice Walker, the author of the novel upon which "Purple" is based, is an in-the-closet lesbian who attempted to write a quasi-feminist tale of female liberation, self-discovery and which paints men as violent brutes who stymie women. For Walker, women must bond together in a kind of matriarchal utopia, black sisterhood and female independence celebrated.

Spielberg's film, however, re-frames Walker's story through the lens of comforting American mythologies. This is a film in which the salvific power of Christianity overcomes the supposed "natural" cruelty of men. A film in which Albert is a bumbling fool who constantly finds himself in ridiculous situations. A film in which all the characters are derived from racist minstrel shows, the cast comprised of lecherous men (always beaming with devilish smiles and toothy grins), stereotypical fat mammies, jazz bands and gospel choirs.

This is a film in which blacks are naturally childlike, readily and happily accepting their social conditions. A film in which blacks are over-sexed, carnal sensualists dominated by violent passions. A film in which poverty and class issues are entirely invisible (Albert lives in a huge house) and in which black men are completely inept. This is not the Old South, this is the Old South as derived from "Gone With The Wind", MGM Muscals, "Song of the South", Warner Cartoons, "Halleluha!" and banned Disney movies. In other words, it's the South as seen by a child raised on 50s TV. It's all so cartoonish, so racist in the way it reduces these human beings to one dimensional ethnic stereotypes, that black novelist Ishmael Reed famously likened it to a Nazi conspiracy.

Of course, in typical Spielberg fashion, the film ends with family bonds being healed. Walker's novel, meanwhile, was resolutely anti Christian. Walker's women think "God is a white man for white folk and hates women", and even used the Bible to mocking prove that "Jesus was black" and that white churches are a "conspiracy of control". Believing that traditional notions of Christianity operate to suppress women and blacks, they then turn atheist, ditch their minister fathers, and then, upon renouncing patriarchy, begin to trace a movement away from Christianity and traditional, Western family units and toward an African, tribal form of spiritualism and/or community (paganism, lesbianism etc are just some of the means by which Walker's characters symbolically reject all white conventions). Spielberg reverses all this. His women reconcile with their fathers, the film focuses on Christians and Christian churches, and all hints of a spiritual alternative outside of patriarchy are erased.

Because Spielberg is uninterested in the wider black community, and in any socio-historical context, the film eventually turns into both a hate letter to black men, and a bizarre caricature of black life. Elsewhere Spielberg's camera busily fights for attention (Celie's kitchen contraptions belong in a cartoon or "Home Alone" movie), every emotion is over played, sequences are loaded with extraneous visual pizazz, racist caricatures, emphatic musical cues and inappropriate musical numbers. Couple this with Quincy Jones' ridiculously "white" music, and you have one of the strangest films in cinema history: a feminist tract filmed by a daddy-loving white Jew in the style of Disney and Griffith and scored by a black man trying to emulate John Williams.

Problematic too is the lack of white characters. Note: the film's men aren't portrayed as being rough to each other, nor do they dominate women because they are brutalised by a racist society which emasculates. No, they are cruel by nature. And the women, whether quietly suffering like Celie or rebellious and tough like her sister, persevere and survive only because the men are too stupid to destroy them. A better film would not have focused solely on the oppression of women as it occurs among the oppressed, rather, it would have shown that it is societal abuse which has led to spousal abuse, that enslaved black women are forced to perform the very same tasks as their male counterparts (whilst still fulfilling traditional female roles) and that African American domestic violence occurs largely because of socio-economic factors.

And so there's a hidden ideology at work here. Late in the film one character tells another that since he didn't respect his wife, she wound up getting severely beaten and imprisoned by whites. The implication is that blacks need to return to their African roots to restore their own dignity and that persecution is implicitly their fault; be good in your own minority community and you won't run afoul of the dominant white culture.

3/10 – Despicable.
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"Roots" are showing
Lejink27 February 2008
Sprawling, rambling Spielberg take on the American Negro experience in the early decades of the 20th Century, focusing, interestingly enough, almost entirely on the dynamics within the Negro community. As a result, the usually all-pervading outside influence of the white community is almost entirely absent. The film is beautifully shot with many imaginative tableaux imaginatively portrayed by the director and the pacing of the film is well-handled, even as the narrative is naturally episodic as it follows the course of the Whoopi Goldberg character's life. However it's impossible not to defend Spielberg against his old failing, sentimentality. Perhaps this is due to a striving to garner a more universal screen censor rating and thus wider distribution for the movie but certainly it seems that the incest, violence, lesbianism and rape scenes are watered down, unnecessarily in my view. This applies particularly in the depiction of Oprah Winfrey's character whose incarceration for speaking back to a white woman sees her go from a sassy mouthy individual to a damaged, passive maid, who even so, miraculously comes around in time for the uplifting conclusion of Goldberg's reunion with her detached family. To me this leaves too much to the imagination and over-stretches credulity and I could say the same also for the brutality rained down on her and her sister by firstly their abusive stepfather and even more so her "arranged" husband. There's also a plainly daft sub-evangelical meeting near the end at which everyone gets to clap hands, sing and generally get healed in front of the reverend father, almost offensive in its patronisation and stereotyping and with all the depth of a pop-video. Perhaps the scene was a sop to Quincy Jones, the film's musical director but even so it jars and is clearly misplaced. As for the acting, I found it only passable if often mannered and no one, for me, giving a particularly award-worthy performance. Comparisons with the slightly earlier hit TV mini-series "Roots" are obvious (there's even a duplication of the famous scene in the former where Whoopi Goldberg serves a drink to her cold father-in-law, replete with added spit). It's years since I avidly watched "Roots" and yet it has and will I'm sure stay longer in my memory than Spielberg's flawed would-be epic.
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I'm poor, black, I might even be ugly, but dear God, I'm here...
ElMaruecan8214 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is Celie's reponse to the venomous enumeration from Albert, Danny Glover as the man who took almost thirty years off her life.

And Celie is Whoopi Goldberg, in her first major role: a virtuoso performance where she bravely dilutes herself in the soul of a woman supposed to be dull and ugly, but only waiting for the right moment to bloom.

And the moment came with the ultimate triumph when she finally found the courage to stand against Albert. She doesn't deny all the physical attributions, she's poor, she's black, she may even be ugly, but God, she lives. And after having witnessed two hours of a true hell of a life, we can only share the happiness that suddenly inhabits her heart.

The reason I started with this scene is to remind how emotionally effective "The Color Purple" is. It might not surprise from a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, both admired and loathed for his capacity to exude great emotions on screen. And there is so much to be criticized, the contrast between the realistic drama and the whole postcard-like setting or some feminist undertones … but the story transcends all these flaws, elevated by the performances of Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey, all women seriously roughed up by life, and overcoming the racist and misogynistic adversity with what was at their hands.

Indeed, "The Color Purple" provides a thought-provoking approach of the South, where another form of racism was prevailing. In the social ladder, a White had more rights than a Black man, but within the Black community, a man had to respect his father as his son would respect him, but women were powerless. But not equally powerless. Margaret Avery plays Shug, a sexy cabaret singer who could command men with her body. It's ironic that Albert, the bullying husband turns into a puppy with Shug Avery. And if a woman couldn't control people with sex appeal, physical and moral strength worked too. This is Oprah Winfrey as Miss Sofia, the wife of Albert's son, Harpo. She grew up in a family of men, and learned to state her presence the hard way.

Both Shug and Sofia embody the fight of Black women, at the expenses of their dignity. Shug's own father, a pastor, disowned her, for she was the local slut, in return, she lost every faith in men and life, but at the end, she finally realized that there was some place in her heart for pure love, by befriending Celie. On the other side, Sofia had the most tragic character's arc, when she refuses to be the maid of the town's mayor through an unforgettable 'hell no', retorted by a severe pistol-punch on the eye, an 8-year sentence in jail, and maybe the worst punishment: finally working in the very job that got her in jail. The energy, the inner strength, the colorful attitude that made her character so irresistible in the beginning, had been totally drained out: she looked prematurely older, and only at the end, in the very scene I described, her dead spirit finally resurrects.

Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey, both Oscar-nominated, are only supporting characters; yet they add a lot to Celie's own journey. Celie is a Black woman who not only was labeled as ugly, but also didn't even have the privilege of ugly women by remaining single. We meet her when she's fourteen and pregnant. She gives birth to two children and is quickly married to Albert who initially wanted Nettie, her much prettier sister. The father refused to give Nettie's hand for some reasons we guess to be personal, so Albert, who needed a woman to clean the house and take care of the "young ones" resigned to take Celie. Yet his eye is still interested on Nettie, and after an attempt to take advantage of her, he forbids her to visit her sister, a punishment worse than any slapping, beating or insult. What remains in Celie is the memory of her sister and the capability to read inherited from her teachings.

And unlike Sofia with Harpo, Celie could never have the 'upper hand' on Albert, and unlike Shug, she didn't have the sex appeal. She was as low in the social ladder as any Black woman could be at the time, poor and ugly, yet the movie is about her realization that she deserves better. The most pivotal and emotional scene is when Shug teases her so she stops covering her smile, and then, with a magic that only cinema can apply, she smiles and bursts out laughing to the mirror. The 'mirror' scene is even more significant because it's not just Celie who starts appreciating herself, but also Shug who's inspired by Celie's genuine attraction to her. The following kiss is probably a more sugar-coated version of what the Alice Walker's novel featured, but the essential is that both women found reasons to be proud of them.

Another miracle happens in the dinner scene, when Celie lets all his anger finally go on Albert, Sofia starts laughing and recovers from the wounds of the past. Celie has her 'hell, no' moment but with enough intelligence not to pull a knife on Albert's throat, which would have been as disastrous as Sofia's punch on the mayor. There is a lot of learning in "The Color Purple" and even Albert finds a way to redeem himself. After all, if there is one thing learned in the film, it's that it's never too late to change for the better, and no flaw, nor physical, sexual or racial can prevent a person to seek her own happiness.

We all have an inner strength that could help us to overcome any adversity, "The Color Purple" is an invitation to find ours, through the triumph of three women, that we joyfully share with them, at the end of the film.
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Steven Spielberg's Personal Masterpiece!
g-bodyl21 September 2014
Now I have seen nearly all of Steven Spielberg's movies, but The Color Purple stands out as his own personal masterpiece. This film hits closer to home and it speaks an emotional, historical truth about a race who has been rejected in America from the birth of the nation to very recently. This movie is about how the black ladies want to be a part of society, not outcasts. There are provocative scenes in here proving just how racist people were in the early 20th century as evident by Mrs. Millie and the townsfolk. The story and direction are amazing. This film is also beautifully shot and this is a majestic masterpiece to behold.

Spielberg's film is tells the story of a black woman named Celie from her teenage years to nearly thirty years later. The film talks about how she suffered abuse all her life from her father to her abusive husband, Albert. But she finds the strength to overcome her abuse when she meets two strong-willed women she finds comfort with.

The acting is marvelous. Whoopi Goldberg, in her first film role, is excellent as the shy, weak-willed Celie. I've always thought as Danny Glover as one of the main good guys in Lethal Weapon, but now that may be overshadowed in his villainous, abusive role as Albert. Margaret Avery as Shug does an excellent job as Celie's role model. Likewise for Oprah Winfrey.

Overall, The Color Purple is an incredible story about how this one woman overcomes the struggles of poverty, sexism, and racism to lead a good life and become closer to God. Her character is strongly defined as the movie progresses and her personality makes a unique change. There is a shed or two to be shed at times. The film may be just a tad long and some of the story could have been fleshened out, but this is definitely a personalized masterpiece. I rate this film 9/10.
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Forgotten Spielberg Masterpiece
tfrizzell2 December 2000
Alice Walker's epic novel is put on the big-screen by director Steven Spielberg and the results are excellent. The film deals with the maturity and independence of a mistreated black woman (Whoopi Goldberg in an Oscar-nominated role) from the years 1909 to 1947. The audience gets to experience all of her triumphs and tragedies through the film's running time. A very strong cast of supporting players make the film memorable as well. Danny Glover, Adolph Caesar, Rae Dawn Chong, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey (the last two Oscar-nominated) all shine with the great screenplay and Spielberg's subtle direction. Somewhat forgotten on Spielberg's list of credits, but still one of his very best films. 5 stars out of 5.
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