Soul-Stirring ‘Color Purple’ is One of the Year’s Best Films (Review)

by | Dec 19, 2023

This hopeful musical adaptation makes for one of the year’s best films.

When done right, musicals can make for some of the best moviegoing experiences. But, in general, musicals are quite tricky. In addition to quality from all aspects, what makes things trickier for The Color Purple is that while it may be based off the stage musical, it will forever be linked to Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film adaptation because it is, in fact, a film too. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, time a film has been adapted differently (because Hollywood loves to remake everything or add nostalgia). But director Blitz Bazawule’s interpretation of Alice Walker’s story stands firmly on its own. Big, bold, and profoundly heartwarming, The Color Purple will shake you in the best way possible from start to finish.  Featuring more than several great musical moments and an outstanding ensemble cast from top to bottom, The Color Purple is undoubtedly one of the year’s best films.

Sisters Celie and Nettie are torn apart during their childhood after their father offers Celie to “Mister” Johnson (Colman Domingo) as his new wife. Chronicling the life and struggles of Celie (Fantasia Barrino) hoping one day to reunite with her sister Nettie (Halle Bailey), she encounters a variety of people who forever change her life, including Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson) and Sofia (Danielle Brooks).

With no disrespect towards Spielberg’s version of the story (which also is very good), if you’ve seen the 1985 film version, you should know right off the bat that the 2023 version is a complete 180 in terms of how it handles its subject matter. However, whether it’s the musical moments or whenever the beat stops, you’ll find yourself uplifted at every turn of this story and its breezy 140-minute runtime; in addition to this, screenwriter Marcus Gardley puts a fresh spin on this story, adding additional depth to its core characters. And speaking of musical moments, this film features numerous standout instances without any of them overshadowing one another. From the vocals to the choreography behind each tune sung, you just may find yourself toe-tapping more often than you expected.

The Color Purple rests on the shoulders of its cast, which is certainly one of, if not the best, ensemble of the year in any given film. In arguably the year’s biggest breakout role, Fantasia Berrino carries most of the weight (and screen time) in this film as Celie and handles the role with silent power and benevolence. A musical moment featuring just Berrino in the film’s third act is among the film’s greatest highlights. Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson brings more than enough spice to the role of Shug Avery and shows why she’s one of the best working actresses in Hollywood right now. Colman Domingo, who is having one of the best years in Hollywood, brings a level of sinisterness to the role of “Mister” that we haven’t seen from the veteran actor in quite some time, which shows off his impeccable range. There are other smaller, yet great, roles from the likes of David Alan Grier, Halle Bailey, Corey Hawkins, and H.E.R too. But if there is one performance that may leave patrons buzzing afterwards, it’s Danielle Brooks as Sofia, a magnetic performance worthy of awards consideration, thanks to her character bringing energy to almost every scene she’s in.

Coming out right around the holiday season, The Color Purple undoubtably will cheer you up, even if its subject matter on the surface is rough. A story of perseverance and grace, this film is a crowd-pleasing musical sensation rarely seen on the big screen these days. With that mixture of components, there is absolutely no reason to miss seeing this triumph in the theaters with the family, and you will enjoy one of the year’s best films.

RATING: ★★★★★

(out of five stars)