The Color Purple - The Musical!

Based on the book and Broadway play.

I saw a touring broadway production of that probably 8-10 years ago. Very well done.

We watched this a couple nights ago. My partner had seen the Broadway musical, which they said was excellent, a friend had read the book, and I had watched the old movie. (Oprah’s not a bad actor!)

By the halfway point, we were all agreed that this film adaptation leaves itself stranded between what made the other versions work. It tries to call back scenes from the original movie, but it’s so abbreviated that it forgets to set them up. Just one example of many, Sofia goes straight from getting out of jail to the dinner table scene where she remembers her old self. This one completely forgets to establish the idea that her spirit had been broken. It skips straight to the payoff, which has no impact whatsoever. The songs do nothing to establish character arcs or move the plot along, which does the story no favors. Weirdly, Shug probably sings less in this version, which is a musical.

The original movie made me cry. This one made me indifferent, and I imagine it would simply make a newcomer confused.

Finally watched this. It was okay. I guess if the Spielberg version didn’t exist, this would be considered a pretty well done adaption of the novel. The actors are good. The cinematography is nice. The problem is that the Spielberg version does exist. I really tried to watch it without constantly comparing it to the '85 movie, but it’s impossible. Blitz Bazawule directed some nice scenes, but none of them are as impactful as the original.

The musical numbers felt flat to me. Most of the shots are just static (or close to it) framing of the singers belting out their tunes straight to the camera, which is okay, but it’s not engaging at all. Compare any of this film’s numbers to the ones in The Heights or even Barbie.

The biggest letdown was Shug’s reconciliation with her father. Instead of a dynamic and inspirational song and dance moving from Harpo’s joint to the church, you just get Shug walking into church and sitting down next to her father while he plays the piano. I didn’t think it was clear what emotional cue turned her father back to her and it felt like a real missed opportunity.

Not by the friend we watched it with, who had only read the book. Her complaints were similar to mine—too abridged. It’s one thing to tighten up the pacing. It’s quite another to leave out important character development moments.

Every song that failed to drive the narrative made me think of just how well In The Heights or Hamilton moved the plot along with each character’s lyrics. I completely agree about how flat Shug’s church entry falls in this version, and I think it goes beyond the less impactful direction of the scene itself. Someone with no prior knowledge of the story would have little motivating context for the scene in the first place. It just kinda happens.