For Colored People Who Don’t Pay To See Movies When Tyler Perry Directs Them

I haven’t been able to see the movie that Tyler Perry recently released because I haven’t found a copy of it online.(Periods don’t just end sentences) Since I knew that our long time friend of The Asylum, @AllTayo had seen the movie recently, I asked her to present her thoughts about it for us.

When Owl asked me to write this review, my first reaction was no. I didn’t feel comfortable in putting my opinion of the film out there; but after some gentle cajoling, I decided, on a whim, to do so. Full disclaimer, I have not seen the stage play or read the choreopoems as originally conceived by Ntozake Shange, so my opinions are based solely on this movie, my experiences and a vague concept of the original.

The first hurdle to tackle with this movie was the writer/director/producer at the helm: Tyler Perry. Perry has found a very comfortable niche with the bringing his “chitlin’ circuit” plays to the big screen. This has been what has brought him to the general public eye and is responsible for the large part of his fame today. And he has his market: the “round the way” Black folks, more specifically Black women. I find that most of his films/plays, while readily consumable, fall back into a easy formula of “bad Black man wrongs the Black woman. Black woman is bitter and angry, hates life and lashes out at those around her, especially the ones who want to help her most. But Praise God Almighty, she finds a ‘good Black man’ and all of her troubles vanish with the flash of his pearly whites.” He relies so much on the stereotypes and cheap and crude jokes to get a quick laugh, touching on serious topics, but not delving in far enough to make us really examine them. But it brings us (Black women) to the theater, especially because we are starved for seeing movies that feature women of our hue in roles that aren’t just the sassy-sidekick-head-rolling-Guuuurrrrrlllllllll!! type roles. Kudos for Perry. And I mean that in a non-sarcastic way. He has shown to Hollywood that movies with predominately Black casts can be profitable. And I hope it paves the way for more Black movies with varied topics and ranges of emotions to come along.

Anyway, back to For Colored Girls. The movie introduces us to the characters and their stories and shows how their lives begin to intertwine. The cinematography was beautiful, as many of Tyler Perry’s films are. The apartments to me seemed worn and tired and it made you wonder how many stories their walls had seen. I was aware that each woman had a color and it was evident enough in the actresses’ clothing who was who. Every actress brought their A game with the roles they were given. I’m a big fan of Black star power and this movie had it in spades. Kimberly Elise shone as an abused mother. Phylicia Rashad brought her graceful ways as the apartment manger who seemed to double as the wise “Earth Mother” type. Macy Gray (whose acting has never disappointed) masterfully performed her part as a creepy back alley abortionist. Kerry Washington, a great actress in her own right, was not given enough material to show her chops, I feel, and her character functioned more so as a link between the other characters and we were not really allowed to experience her story. Thandie Newton stole all her scenes as the sex-crazed, but troubled bartender; I will say, however, that a lot of her lines bordered on very stereotypical (Perry’s specialty), which drew the “obvious” laughs.

Aside from all this, the movie was brought down for me by the writing. I believe that it would be somewhat hard to take a stage play that is more thematic and translate it into a narrative film version that has to tell the stories more literally. There were many times that the film broke into the words of Shange from the created dialogue and it caught me off guard. It often took a second to realize that we had shifted into the poems and often by the time I thought to try and listen to what the poems were saying, it had ended and had shifted back to the narrative. This was also complicated for me in a few scenes by the extra “noise” that was going on: overlapping poems spoken at the same time, but not in such a way that you got what both were saying. Poems that were overshadowed by the context of the scenes that they were in. There were times when I wondered if the movie seemed powerful to me because it was actually a powerful movie or if it was because the play on which it was based was powerful itself. Sitting in my seat in the theater, from start to finish, I was on edge. The subject matters were intense and dark: rape, child and woman abuse, cheating, down-low homosexuality, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases. It just seemed that every situation went from bad to worse and at times it was very depressing. My mother leaned over to me a couple of times and whispered “There’s so much bad in this film; I just wish there was at least one positive person.” To which I responded, “I’m not sure if that is the point of this movie.” It just seemed that as the movie wore on, that a heavy feeling came over me, a sense of hopelessness for these characters living their lives on the screen. And even as the movie wrapped up and there was a glimmer of positivity, a sense of “And still I rise…”, it felt like it came too late and was so rushed, as if it was an afterthought. There was no time to actually embrace those thoughts and feelings that would have allowed the viewer to walk out of the theater with a smile in her heart.

All that said, I do feel like this is Tyler Perry’s best effort at movie making to date. Could it have been better, yes. Would it have been better if another, more accomplished and more nuanced director undertook the effort? Possibly. Probably. But for me, Black star power shone throughout that movie and if for nothing else, it is worth seeing all these wonderful and often times overlooked Black actors and actresses get the opportunity to stretch out and flex their acting muscles.

Tayo isn’t really a movie critic, she just plays one on TV.

10 thoughts on “For Colored People Who Don’t Pay To See Movies When Tyler Perry Directs Them

  1. AllTayo, thank you for writing this review! Like you, I went to see “For Colored Girls” without previously seeing the Broadway performance or reading the choreopoems, although I did intend to… BEFORE my (scheduled weeks in advanced) Ladies night out, this past Friday. *Shakes fist at Amazon.com for delaying the delivery of my book* ((I realized only this evening before writing this comment that my request to purchase the book from a seller other than Amazon directly, is where I went wrong…still waiting…I digress.))
    As growing anticipation for Tyler’s film adaptation of Ntozake’s work started to fill up my Twitter TL, along with the swarm of pre-movie debut reviews from almost every Black media/entertainment outlet, I felt compelled to see this movie and formulate my own opinion . Now I must say… I am not a STAN for Tyler, but I don’t despise him either. I can’t stomach his television show “Meet the Browns”…but I can watch “Daddy’s Little Girl’s” on repeat and my sensibilities weren’t entirely offended by “Why Did I Get Married”…the sequel however was horrific. I learned two things in the days before the movie’s release… 1) Ntozake’s work is widely respected, guarded and revered by an entire generation of Black women and men who did NOT want it in the hands of Mr. Perry and will go through great lengths to disparage any effort made on his behalf regardless of its favor to Ntozake’s art, and 2) Tyler Perry is clearly the SOLE reason Black women in the media are depicted as angry, uneducated, poor decision makers in need of saving… (No really). I kid.
    I agree with you 100% we (Black women and men) are starved for images of ourselves and flock to the theatres to see Tyler’s films because we have few alternatives/options.
    I think each actor put their best foot forward in their respective roles to the best of their capability with the characters as they were written for them by Tyler. But even these widely known Black actors have had very little block buster success. As you stated, to see Phylicia Rashad, Macy Gray, Loretta Divine, Janet Jackson….aka “Black star power” in one movie was simply a treat and enough of an excuse for us to make “For Colored Girls” the number three movie at the box office this weekend.
    Integrity in how we are depicted in the big screen surely would lessen the blow and burden on Tyler who IS a self made, self taught filmmaker who maybe does capitalize on the ugly side of our struggles as black women too often. Again I agree with you…Kudos to him for finding a niche in Hollywood where there otherwise isn’t one. My hope is that THIS film creates a pathway for him (and others) to move away from the stereotypical roles…and develop films in the future that accurately portray our diversity as strong, powerful, loving, smart, women in fulfilling, healthy families and relationships. It’s overdue.
    Considering my adamancy with preparing for this film (I also watched a few amateur YouTube performances of the poems) I wasn’t quite taken aback by the spontaneous poetry recited in the movie…although I agree whole heartedly that the overlaps were simply over doing it and actually hearing the words was more so a struggle for me against the sounds of other movie goers who did not appreciate the impromptu recitals…LOL. I think I heard every side eye, and deep sigh during those parts of the movie!
    Finally, I think there is widespread agreement that this is Tyler’s best work. I’m looking forward to seeing not so much bigger, but better things from him in the future… Say what you want about his creative representation of the Black experience in his films…his multimillion dollar Black Hollywood in ATL employs and provides for the real life existence of thousands of Black folks. We need him to win and do better…
    Thank you again for sharing your take!!

  2. AllTayo, thank you for writing this review! Like you, I went to see “For Colored Girls” without previously seeing the Broadway performance or reading the choreopoems, although I did intend to… BEFORE my (scheduled weeks in advanced) Ladies night out, this past Friday. *Shakes fist at Amazon.com for delaying the delivery of my book* ((I realized only this evening before writing this comment that my request to purchase the book from a seller other than Amazon directly, is where I went wrong…still waiting…I digress.))
    As growing anticipation for Tyler’s film adaptation of Ntozake’s work started to fill up my Twitter TL, along with the swarm of pre-movie debut reviews from almost every Black media/entertainment outlet, I felt compelled to see this movie and formulate my own opinion . Now I must say… I am not a STAN for Tyler, but I don’t despise him either. I can’t stomach his television show “Meet the Browns”…but I can watch “Daddy’s Little Girl’s” on repeat and my sensibilities weren’t entirely offended by “Why Did I Get Married”…the sequel however was horrific. I learned two things in the days before the movie’s release… 1) Ntozake’s work is widely respected, guarded and revered by an entire generation of Black women and men who did NOT want it in the hands of Mr. Perry and will go through great lengths to disparage any effort made on his behalf regardless of its favor to Ntozake’s art, and 2) Tyler Perry is clearly the SOLE reason Black women in the media are depicted as angry, uneducated, poor decision makers in need of saving… (No really). I kid.
    I agree with you 100% we (Black women and men) are starved for images of ourselves and flock to the theatres to see Tyler’s films because we have few alternatives/options.
    I think each actor put their best foot forward in their respective roles to the best of their capability with the characters as they were written for them by Tyler. But even these widely known Black actors have had very little block buster success. As you stated, to see Phylicia Rashad, Macy Gray, Loretta Divine, Janet Jackson….aka “Black star power” in one movie was simply a treat and enough of an excuse for us to make “For Colored Girls” the number three movie at the box office this weekend.
    Integrity in how we are depicted in the big screen surely would lessen the blow and burden on Tyler who IS a self made, self taught filmmaker who maybe does capitalize on the ugly side of our struggles as black women too often. Again I agree with you…Kudos to him for finding a niche in Hollywood where there otherwise isn’t one. My hope is that THIS film creates a pathway for him (and others) to move away from the stereotypical roles…and develop films in the future that accurately portray our diversity as strong, powerful, loving, smart, women in fulfilling, healthy families and relationships. It’s overdue.
    Considering my adamancy with preparing for this film (I also watched a few amateur YouTube performances of the poems) I wasn’t quite taken aback by the spontaneous poetry recited in the movie…although I agree whole heartedly that the overlaps were simply over doing it and actually hearing the words was more so a struggle for me against the sounds of other movie goers who did not appreciate the impromptu recitals…LOL. I think I heard every side eye, and deep sigh during those parts of the movie!
    Finally, I think there is widespread agreement that this is Tyler’s best work. I’m looking forward to seeing not so much bigger, but better things from him in the future… Say what you want about his creative representation of the Black experience in his films…his multimillion dollar Black Hollywood in ATL employs and provides for the real life existence of thousands of Black folks. We need him to win and do better…
    Thank you again for sharing your take!!

  3. First off, I’m shocked that so many sisters had not read the book; I’m just shaking my head about that, so the fact that Tyler Perry brought some attention to this beautiful work is wonderful. Just from the many criticisms of the film, I had no idea that folks had a problem with Ntozake Shange; I would have thought someone would have said something 30 yrs ago, go figure.

    I’m resigned to the notion that any “work of art” is conceived for the most part by the artist’s pain. I saw For Colored Girls on yesterday and loved it. I thought it was beautiful and powerful performances and not at all interested in what anyone else thought and I hope Tyler Perry doesn’t either. The worst thing anyone can do is to dismiss another’s pain or experience formed into their show n tell, scared it’s gonna define the melanin that they might share with that person, that’s seems like a whole lot of selfish. Having read the book and loved the book, I was so drawn into these women I didn’t pay attention to what could have been different, how it could have been done better or if it could have been done better. I was too busy waiting too see where the next group of poetic passages would show up. And then all these sisters shining their talents and putting on these women, and bringing those words, interconnected and beautiful. I thought Tyler Perry did a great job and his best work so far. I don’t feel Janet is a powerful enough actress, that role should have gone to someone else…but I did enjoy her performance.

    As far as the male bashing. Not my focus. I love black men, always have and always will and I agree images are powerful, but anyone hating a black man for anything didn’t need a Tyler Perry movie to do it. But what I didn’t like was how they barely even glossed over the part about the woman discovering Toussaint L’overture in the library when she was young; her discovery has always been my favorite part of the book. “My first black man. who refused to be a slave..didn’t low no white man to tell him nothing” I love that so much it should have been worked in the film in it’s entirety. I can’t wait to see it again.

  4. First off, I’m shocked that so many sisters had not read the book; I’m just shaking my head about that, so the fact that Tyler Perry brought some attention to this beautiful work is wonderful. Just from the many criticisms of the film, I had no idea that folks had a problem with Ntozake Shange; I would have thought someone would have said something 30 yrs ago, go figure.

    I’m resigned to the notion that any “work of art” is conceived for the most part by the artist’s pain. I saw For Colored Girls on yesterday and loved it. I thought it was beautiful and powerful performances and not at all interested in what anyone else thought and I hope Tyler Perry doesn’t either. The worst thing anyone can do is to dismiss another’s pain or experience formed into their show n tell, scared it’s gonna define the melanin that they might share with that person, that’s seems like a whole lot of selfish. Having read the book and loved the book, I was so drawn into these women I didn’t pay attention to what could have been different, how it could have been done better or if it could have been done better. I was too busy waiting too see where the next group of poetic passages would show up. And then all these sisters shining their talents and putting on these women, and bringing those words, interconnected and beautiful. I thought Tyler Perry did a great job and his best work so far. I don’t feel Janet is a powerful enough actress, that role should have gone to someone else…but I did enjoy her performance.

    As far as the male bashing. Not my focus. I love black men, always have and always will and I agree images are powerful, but anyone hating a black man for anything didn’t need a Tyler Perry movie to do it. But what I didn’t like was how they barely even glossed over the part about the woman discovering Toussaint L’overture in the library when she was young; her discovery has always been my favorite part of the book. “My first black man. who refused to be a slave..didn’t low no white man to tell him nothing” I love that so much it should have been worked in the film in it’s entirety. I can’t wait to see it again.

  5. First off, I’m shocked that so many sisters had not read the book; I’m just shaking my head about that, so the fact that Tyler Perry brought some attention to this beautiful work is wonderful. Just from the many criticisms of the film, I had no idea that folks had a problem with Ntozake Shange; I would have thought someone would have said something 30 yrs ago, go figure.

    I’m resigned to the notion that any “work of art” is conceived for the most part by the artist’s pain. I saw For Colored Girls on yesterday and loved it. I thought it was beautiful and powerful performances and not at all interested in what anyone else thought and I hope Tyler Perry doesn’t either. The worst thing anyone can do is to dismiss another’s pain or experience formed into their show n tell, scared it’s gonna define the melanin that they might share with that person, that’s seems like a whole lot of selfish. Having read the book and loved the book, I was so drawn into these women I didn’t pay attention to what could have been different, how it could have been done better or if it could have been done better. I was too busy waiting too see where the next group of poetic passages would show up. And then all these sisters shining their talents and putting on these women, and bringing those words, interconnected and beautiful. I thought Tyler Perry did a great job and his best work so far. I don’t feel Janet is a powerful enough actress, that role should have gone to someone else…but I did enjoy her performance.

    As far as the male bashing. Not my focus. I love black men, always have and always will and I agree images are powerful, but anyone hating a black man for anything didn’t need a Tyler Perry movie to do it. But what I didn’t like was how they barely even glossed over the part about the woman discovering Toussaint L’overture in the library when she was young; her discovery has always been my favorite part of the book. “My first black man. who refused to be a slave..didn’t low no white man to tell him nothing” I love that so much it should have been worked in the film in it’s entirety. I can’t wait to see it again.

  6. First off, I’m shocked that so many sisters had not read the book; I’m just shaking my head about that, so the fact that Tyler Perry brought some attention to this beautiful work is wonderful. Just from the many criticisms of the film, I had no idea that folks had a problem with Ntozake Shange; I would have thought someone would have said something 30 yrs ago, go figure.

    I’m resigned to the notion that any “work of art” is conceived for the most part by the artist’s pain. I saw For Colored Girls on yesterday and loved it. I thought it was beautiful and powerful performances and not at all interested in what anyone else thought and I hope Tyler Perry doesn’t either. The worst thing anyone can do is to dismiss another’s pain or experience formed into their show n tell, scared it’s gonna define the melanin that they might share with that person, that’s seems like a whole lot of selfish. Having read the book and loved the book, I was so drawn into these women I didn’t pay attention to what could have been different, how it could have been done better or if it could have been done better. I was too busy waiting too see where the next group of poetic passages would show up. And then all these sisters shining their talents and putting on these women, and bringing those words, interconnected and beautiful. I thought Tyler Perry did a great job and his best work so far. I don’t feel Janet is a powerful enough actress, that role should have gone to someone else…but I did enjoy her performance.

    As far as the male bashing. Not my focus. I love black men, always have and always will and I agree images are powerful, but anyone hating a black man for anything didn’t need a Tyler Perry movie to do it. But what I didn’t like was how they barely even glossed over the part about the woman discovering Toussaint L’overture in the library when she was young; her discovery has always been my favorite part of the book. “My first black man. who refused to be a slave..didn’t low no white man to tell him nothing” I love that so much it should have been worked in the film in it’s entirety. I can’t wait to see it again.

  7. *slinks in the room, guily look on face*thanks for the comments, ladies.

    Cheymarlymom:
    Yeah, I meant to read up on the play as well and I never even thought to go to youtube to view performances *headed there now*!

    I’m in agreeance with everything you commented and I’m waiting with baited breath to see the effect on Black Hollywood and Hollywood in general, if any, after the buzz of the movie dies down.

    Kimistry:
    I’ll admit, that FCG is one of those Black works that I’d heard about but had yet to experience. I feel that while a lot of Black women were intimately acquainted with Shange’s work, there were a lot who, like me, hadn’t experienced it firsthand. I hadn’t heard any criticisms of her in relation to this film, but then again, I have a tendency to be a media hermit at times. I don’t know what effect it will have that the first exposure that many will have to this work is the movie. I would like to see the original to compare, sooner rather than later.

    To be honest, most of the stories did not personally resound with me, but they touched me in that I could put myself in thier place and feel the emotion put forth. One of the few beefs with Perry’s interpretation was that it felt jumbled. Maybe it was my lack of previous exposure to the book, but shouldn’t coming into a piece with essentially a blank slate make it easier to absorb the movie? You anticipated the passages, I did not and when the chance arose that the passages came into play, I felt that many of them were glossed over or muddled that I couldn’t appreciate them. Maybe seeing the play or reading the book and then seeing the movie again would help. No negotiating, the actresses and actors in the movie stepped it up (or brought their usual A game) and did bring it to life in skilled and nuanced manners.

    As for the male bashing, I agree. Anyone walking into the movie with “men ain’t shyt” in their psyches would leave with that same mentality; just as those who walked in without, would most likely not have had that tainted for them. I myself love Black men, and while I didn’t like their portrayals in the movie, I understand that they represent one sect of men (color negated) and their roles were to help expound on the stories of each woman.

    I didn’t hate the movie; I can’t honestly say that I loved it. But I appreciated the performances, the fact that it was put out, and the fact that we (the masses) can be exposed to more Black-oriented works.

    Phew! 🙂

  8. *slinks in the room, guily look on face*thanks for the comments, ladies.

    Cheymarlymom:
    Yeah, I meant to read up on the play as well and I never even thought to go to youtube to view performances *headed there now*!

    I’m in agreeance with everything you commented and I’m waiting with baited breath to see the effect on Black Hollywood and Hollywood in general, if any, after the buzz of the movie dies down.

    Kimistry:
    I’ll admit, that FCG is one of those Black works that I’d heard about but had yet to experience. I feel that while a lot of Black women were intimately acquainted with Shange’s work, there were a lot who, like me, hadn’t experienced it firsthand. I hadn’t heard any criticisms of her in relation to this film, but then again, I have a tendency to be a media hermit at times. I don’t know what effect it will have that the first exposure that many will have to this work is the movie. I would like to see the original to compare, sooner rather than later.

    To be honest, most of the stories did not personally resound with me, but they touched me in that I could put myself in thier place and feel the emotion put forth. One of the few beefs with Perry’s interpretation was that it felt jumbled. Maybe it was my lack of previous exposure to the book, but shouldn’t coming into a piece with essentially a blank slate make it easier to absorb the movie? You anticipated the passages, I did not and when the chance arose that the passages came into play, I felt that many of them were glossed over or muddled that I couldn’t appreciate them. Maybe seeing the play or reading the book and then seeing the movie again would help. No negotiating, the actresses and actors in the movie stepped it up (or brought their usual A game) and did bring it to life in skilled and nuanced manners.

    As for the male bashing, I agree. Anyone walking into the movie with “men ain’t shyt” in their psyches would leave with that same mentality; just as those who walked in without, would most likely not have had that tainted for them. I myself love Black men, and while I didn’t like their portrayals in the movie, I understand that they represent one sect of men (color negated) and their roles were to help expound on the stories of each woman.

    I didn’t hate the movie; I can’t honestly say that I loved it. But I appreciated the performances, the fact that it was put out, and the fact that we (the masses) can be exposed to more Black-oriented works.

    Phew! 🙂

  9. Wow! in the middle of my commentary, livefyre decided they needed to do maintenance!!! *smh*
    Anyway, in essence, the movie, to me was only good b/c it was based on a preexisting popular & well-respected stage play. I will admit I rejoiced in the fact I didn’t have to see Madea’s ole clownin’ azz, OR his corny mug in the film!
    I watched it w/my lil queens & they really got into it. I enjoyed watching this film with them, b/c as a “colored person who Don’t Pay To See Movies When Tyler Perry Directs Them” it provided several teachable moments by the click of the pause.

    I was able to intelligently explain the probable cause woman’s woes, & give them sound advice on how to AVOID becoming victims of these types of very real circumstances.

    I did find the interruption of prose throughout the film to be quite aggrivating. Even my 16 yr old sighed throught, “I hate it when they keep going into the poetry!!”
    Even after explaining that’s how the flow is in the play, she replies, “they should leave that out in the movies & just say they lines”
    I overstood what she meant, & I shared her frustration. This tends to be the issue when you bring deeply emothional, moving stage plays or musicals to film. Hollywood just seems to have a knack for “cornifying” it.

    Well, overall, it was a good try. I see where Tyler going, I don’t knock his efforts.
    But, like most of his films, I’ve yet to see anything that’s worth me spending money on overpriced seats, popcorn & candy…oh & the drinks. That high azz popcorn make you thirsty!

    PEACE, to thee Asylum!

    Jah Empress

  10. Wow! in the middle of my commentary, livefyre decided they needed to do maintenance!!! *smh*
    Anyway, in essence, the movie, to me was only good b/c it was based on a preexisting popular & well-respected stage play. I will admit I rejoiced in the fact I didn’t have to see Madea’s ole clownin’ azz, OR his corny mug in the film!
    I watched it w/my lil queens & they really got into it. I enjoyed watching this film with them, b/c as a “colored person who Don’t Pay To See Movies When Tyler Perry Directs Them” it provided several teachable moments by the click of the pause.

    I was able to intelligently explain the probable cause woman’s woes, & give them sound advice on how to AVOID becoming victims of these types of very real circumstances.

    I did find the interruption of prose throughout the film to be quite aggrivating. Even my 16 yr old sighed throught, “I hate it when they keep going into the poetry!!”
    Even after explaining that’s how the flow is in the play, she replies, “they should leave that out in the movies & just say they lines”
    I overstood what she meant, & I shared her frustration. This tends to be the issue when you bring deeply emothional, moving stage plays or musicals to film. Hollywood just seems to have a knack for “cornifying” it.

    Well, overall, it was a good try. I see where Tyler going, I don’t knock his efforts.
    But, like most of his films, I’ve yet to see anything that’s worth me spending money on overpriced seats, popcorn & candy…oh & the drinks. That high azz popcorn make you thirsty!

    PEACE, to thee Asylum!

    Jah Empress

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.