Alma's Rainbow is a rich, multi-layered film about Black American life that is all too rare.
Unlike many films about African-Americans, the characters of Alma's Rainbow are fully-developed and center around Rainbow and her transformation into womanhood. She is straying from the straight and narrow path that her pragmatic mother, Alma, would have her follow when along comes her Aunt Ruby, a stylish lounge singer with more ambition than talent. In Rainbow's inexperienced eyes, Ruby has reached the plateau of success that Rainbow dreams of. The film focuses on the conflict that ensues between sisters Alma and Ruby and Rainbow's decisions about her future.
Before Rainbow was born, Alma's and Ruby's were a singing duo named The Flamingo Sisters. Alma career was cut short by the arrival of Rainbow, so she opens a day spa named the Flamingo Parlor while Ruby goes off to Paris to perform Josephine Baker impersonations. After they part ways, Ruby becomes even more decadent and free-spirited while Alma becomes more conservative. The story does not mention Rainbow's father, but it hints that Alma is reluctant to engage in a new relationship because of a painful past experience.
The acting is all around well done. The characters are all buoyant and funny. At first glance, Victoria Gabriella Platt seems a bit old for the part of Rainbow. She is an obviously well-developed young woman, not a child on the edge of puberty. The director makes a wise decision in casting her because she reflects all of the emotions and inner turmoil that Rainbow is feeling with her expressive face and body language. I also must mention Lee Dobson's great use of his eyes as Alma's love interest. I particularly admired Kim Weston-Moran's sangfroid in her performance as Alma. She underplays the role which balances out Mizan Nunez's wild portrayal of Ruby. My only real criticism is that the film does not fully explore Ruby's characterization. Despite her obvious materialism and irresponsibility, Ruby but does not come across as shallow. I longed to discover what really motivates her and makes her tick.
The visual representation of Alma's Rainbow is very creative without being gimmicky. There are colorful, balloon-filled parties, stylish costumes and ever-changing hairstyles. The cinematography captures the unique beauty of Brooklyn with Manhattan skylines, lush green parks, and the rich woods and tall ceilings of Alma's brownstone. Throughout the film, the image of a hot pink flower represents Alma's repressed passion. There are also flashbacks to the Flamingo Sisters in their heyday that are juxtaposed to the present as silent shots in black and white. There are also shots of Rainbow's romantic fantasies of an interlude with an older soldier as she explores her awakening sexuality.
The musical elements of this film are also a treat. Hip-hop, slow jams, and a fantastic main theme of smooth strains of the alto sax are edited to compliment the visual presentation masterfully.
On every level, this movie is fantastic and fun to watch again and again.
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