Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Some plays resist filming. They exist as stage fantasies that can't survive the greater realism of cinema. When a stage character performs a soliloquy, we understand exactly what's happening. When a film character does it, it can feel strange. A monologue on film, sure — but not a poetic construction unlike the ordinary speech in the same film.
Director-writer Tyler Perry's ambitious "For Colored Girls" is based on the Tony-nominated "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange. Many in the audience will have seen it onstage, and that will be an advantage; they'll understand what Perry is attempting. Ordinary moviegoers, accustomed to Perry's mainline films, are likely to be thrown off by the unconventional approach here. Perry tries to be faithful to the play and also to his own boldly and simply told stories, and the two styles don't fit together.
He also paints a cluttered canvas. The play featured seven characters (each known by a color) in seven places with seven kinds of problems. He adds three other significant roles, in order to flesh out actions that the play described in prose. This is too literal. His actors do an effective job with their soliloquies, but the audience is tugged back and forth between the stylized speech and the straight dramatic material.
Too bad. What a cast he has assembled: Kimberly Elise (Crystal/Brown), Janet Jackson (Jo/Red), Loretta Devine (Juanita/Green), Thandie Newton (Tangie/Orange), Anika Noni Rose (Yasmine/Yellow), Kerry Washington (Kelly/Blue), Tessa Thompson (Nyla/Purple) and Whoopi Goldberg (Alice/White). Then there's Phylicia Rashad as a wise woman who lives in the same apartment house with six of the others, sees all and provides a running commentary.