The Color Purple (2023): Movie Review

Based on Alice Walker’s 1982 novel of the same name, Blitz Bazawule brings The Color Purple back to the big screen for its’ second film adaptation. In 1985 Steven Spielberg directed the period-drama that starred Whoopi Goldberg, Oparah Winfrey and Danny Glover. The 2023 film was adapted from the stage musical and although it follows the same beats as Spielberg’s classic, this is definitely a very different movie.

Sisters Celie (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi) and Nettie (Halle Bailey) are torn away from each other when their father sells his oldest daughter to the wife-seeking widow, Mister (Colman Domingo). Even though Mister wanted Nettie instead, he still took Celie so she could raise his children, clean his house, and tend to his needs. The father Celie left behind would constantly assault her and it is only a matter of time before he set his sights on Nettie.

Celie is of course miserable. Not only does Mister treat her badly, but he also beats her. The children also walk all over their new mother. When Nettie runs away from her father, she shows up at Mister’s house in hopes to stay with her sister Celie. Mister does give a roof to Nettie, but since she was the sibling he wanted originally, she is not safe around him either. Eventually Mister does through Nettie out when she fights off his advances, leaving Celie all alone again with a family that has no respect for her.

Years later Celie (now played by Fantasia Barrino), has become meek from the years of abuse. However, she begins to open-up when the head-strong Sofia (Danielle Brooks) and Mister’s mistress Shug (Taraji P. Henson) enter her life. Sofia is the wife of Mister’s son Harpo (Corey Hawkins) and  is one of the first people aside from her sister to show her any kindness. Although she is sleeping with Mister, Shug actually cares about Celie and does whatever she can to help give Celie find some strength. She even discovers letters from her sister that Mister has hidden from her over the years. While Celie slowly begins to find herself, sadly Sofia gets herself into some serious trouble that leaves her not only beaten, but ripped away from her children, jailed and forced into working as a maid for the person who ruined her life.

If you have seen Spielberg’s original film, you know exactly how the story will play out, even if it does make a few changes here and there. While Bazawule’s adaptation lacks some of the emotional wait of the 1985 drama, this version delivers some spectacular musical numbers. Danielle Brooks’ Hell No! is my absolute favorite and going by the packed theater reaction from the audience, I am probably not alone. While, not a great film, this latest version of The Color Purple is definitely going to be enjoyed by many and it might appeal to a larger audience than what Hollywood is offering this holiday season. If you love musicals, this is a really good season at the movies. Between Wonka, The Color Purple and Mean Girls arriving in a few weeks, there is plenty to sing about.

By: Marc Ferman