Customer Reviews: The Color Purple
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on March 11, 2000
This is the best movie I have ever seen. Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Gover are magnificent, and the supporting cast does an equally impressive job. On an artistic level the film is wonderful, but its emotional effectiveness (a rare combination of rawness and innocence) is indescribable. I first saw The Color Purple when I was 11 (I'm 16 now). I live in rural Louisiana, where despite major advances in American society in general, violent racism thrives. I honestly believe that if I had not seen this film, I might have become one of those men whose only joy is hatred. I remember vividly the exact moment I abandoned racism (and many other prejudices) and became a better person: the scene in which Sophia is attacked outside the store. She'd just been hit in the head, and as she lay on the ground the wind blew her dress over her head, exposing her underwear. I am crying right now remembering that moment, that stripping away of dignity... The movie is beautiful, simple, and powerful. Don't be afraid to let children watch it, because sometimes children's lives can be changed too.
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on November 21, 1999
I just bought this disc and watched it last night. I bawled my eyes out. I haven't seen it in many years and had forgotten what an incredible film it is. I gave it only 4 stars because of what many other reviewers have said about the DVD -- it's not double-layered and requires a "flip" right after Celie and Shug kiss.
I was particularly moved by Oprah Winfrey's performance. We all know her as OPRAH now. I'd forgotten how amazing she was in COLOR PURPLE.
I think if Spielberg made this movie today he might not shy away from some of the heavier themes like he did in 1985. But his filmmaking technique was incredible for this film. It plays like an old-fashioned Hollywood movie. The colors are gorgeous. (How did they get all those perfectly purple flowers in that field ? ) The camera work is exciting.
Everyone has their "crying" moments in COLOR PURPLE. These are mine: 1. The breakup of the sisters ("Ain't no mountain, ain't no sea..."). 2. Celie gets the letter ("I got two children..."). 3. God's Tryin To Tell You Something ("See daddy, even singers got soul") and, of course, 4. The end.
It's about life. It's about love. It's about us. Thank you Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg, and Whoopi.
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on February 24, 2003
Having just watched the two-disc "Special Edition" of COLOR PURPLE this weekend, I believe this newer version has outdone the original single-disc dvd that was released in 1999 (which you had to flip over halfway through in order to see the second half of the film.)
The second disc of this "Special Edition" contains several excellent documentaries about the making of COLOR PURPLE. Most refreshing is Alice Walker herself, who is wise and thoughtful about the movie-making aspect of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Steven Spielberg has some reflectful things to say as well - he admits to his own limitations in filming the Shug/Celie love scene. (Alice Walker calls the scene "sweet").
Oprah appears looking glamorous and very different from her mid-80's self. As she tells the story of how she won the part of Sophia, one cannot help but be moved. Whoopie Goldberg, too, is very humble about the process of winning then filming the role of Celie.
It's wonderful to see the new interviews with the cast (Margaret Avery looks incredible!) - and shocking that COLOR PURPLE did not win in any of the categories it was nominated for at the Academy Awards. I always thought that Akosua Busia gave an incredible performance as Nettie - did you know she shares a screenwriting credit on Winfrey's BELOVED?
Watching the film again was a wonderful experience. The dvd looks incredible and sounds great - no complaints there. (It is dual-layered, so it is not necessary to flip the disc any more!) Spielberg can still tug my heartstrings with this movie. I cry on cue at several scenes. His direction and the actors' performances are truly wonderful. My only qualm is that THE COLOR PURPLE is an old-fashioned film in style. It is more like GONE WITH THE WIND than BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA. There are some themes that Spielberg glosses over that could have been examined more closely. The film is not diminished by this. Another director, however, would have made a differently styled film.
THE COLOR PURPLE is one of my all-time favorite films. I'm glad to have this "Special Edition" in my dvd library.
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on January 3, 2000
Despite the ever so popular view that the film is a condemnation of black men I (a black male) have to disagree. What the film so adeptly demonstrates is the very harsh realities that far too many women (black women in particular) have had to endure for far too long in a male dominated society. The strength of all of the female characters is indominatable. That being said we should not forget how important racism was in creating the attitudes of black males then as today. That doesn't excuse the behavior nor eliminate the responsibility for the acts but it does however help to explain them.
Spielberg's direction is better (in my opinion) in this film than in any other film of his career (Schindler's List) included. For him not to have received the Oscar as best director and for this film to have been denied the Best Picture award is one of many great injustices perpertrated by the ... hollywood establishment. The most dramatic (not emotional mind you) scene in the movie is when Celie is getting ready to shave Mister at the same time as her son is undertaking his ritual and Shug has intuition about Celie's murderous intent. Absolutely flawless. The music was perfect as it built in intensity.
You'll laugh, cry, think and be entertained. What more could you ask for.
Whoopi Goldberg is one of the best dramatic actresses I think i've ever seen. The same can't be said for her less than comedic talents. Oprah and Margeret Avery were outstanding and so deftly contrast Whoopi's performance and underscore the many different indignities suffered by all of the women albeit in different ways.
It ultimately is a triumph of the human spirit.
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on May 30, 2006
"All black people are not good, so why should EVERY black character be portrayed as so?"- This is my response to the critics who accuse this film of disrespecting black men or perpetrating a negative stereotype. If you want a negative stereotype, buy a recent rap cd.

It is a crime not to see this film at least once. The story, the all flawless. Funny moments mixed in tactfully with heartwrenching moments.

I applaud Spielberg for being a white man who cared enough to make a story about black people without it being patronizing or white-liberal condescending.

This is one of the FEW times the movie certainly outshines/outperforms the book it was adapted from.
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on January 2, 2003
Steven Spielberg's first cinematic attempt to delve deeper than escapism produced a rich, heartfelt epic that matched the Pulitzer Prize-winning credentials of Alice Walker's novel, receiving 11 Oscar nominations but famously winning none of them. The Color Purple is a triumph of all elements of production design, nominated for its screenplay, cinematography, makeup, costumes, art direction, score, and three of its actresses - though not for director Spielberg. The snub may have helped push him as an artist toward such prestigious works as Schindler's List. One would hardly guess Whoopi Goldberg's roots were in comedy, given the layered dramatic performance she offers in her first real screen role. Oprah Winfrey (also debuting) and Margaret Avery are the other two-thirds of the heart-breaking dynamic between three black women in Spielberg's brutal world of racial and sexual prejudice. Even Danny Glover's role shows late-blooming sympathy, however agonizingly wrought, which demonstrates the dimension of Menno Meyjes' script. There's nothing simple about this early 20th century South, populated by characters paralyzed by the roles ascribed to them, and wickedly punished when they try to venture beyond their bounds. It boils the blood at the same time that it touches the soul, making for genuinely tear-soaked cinema with a visceral emotional payoff.
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on February 19, 2005
I saw The Color Purple first in the cinemas in 1985 when it first came out. I remember the scandal when it failed to win a single Academy Award after it received eleven nominations. After I saw the films that won the Oscars, I felt the outrage. This movie deserved the award for Best Picture without a doubt, and while some people could have debated if Whoopi Goldberg deserved Best Actress, hindsight would have ended that debate instantly, because it was the only time she ever played a role with subtlety; she was magnificent, and there's no arguing that point.

The arguments against the film were that the film is a tear-jerker, the story stereotypes all the women as virtuous, all the men as evil, all the whites as victimizers -- but this is an adaptation of a novel, not an original screenplay, and the blame for these shortcomings lies in the Alice Walker original novel, not Steven Spielberg's work. Alice Walker's works all revolve around similar themes, so anyone familiar with her writings knows what to expect. Some critics claimed that Spielberg's rendition made the story seem much too glamorous, too glorified, too sweet, but years later, those criticisms seem too absurd to take seriously, as the stark realism that he later revealed in Schindler's List is evident in the scenes of brutality in which Celie is brutally raped and does her best to survive the experience.

The story is, however, a very emotional one, the story of a bond between two sisters who grew up under very difficult conditions by anybody's definition. It is the bond betwee those two sisters, the separation that takes place between them, and their ultimate reunion, that is the heart of the story, with a lot that happens along the way that can move mountains.

The performances of Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey are unforgettable and earned them Oscar nominations. Danny Glover as her brutal husband Albert appears as most of the men in the movie appear, but he is afforded the chance to show a true character that develops and grows as the story progresses so that at the end, he is able to show his repentance in the only way he knows how. Throughout the film, the sumptuous score of Quincy Jones gives a special touch that after twenty years has not lost its charm.

The film did not receive nearly as much credit as it deserved in 1985, which was criminal enough. As many times as I have seen it since, the more I have come to admire the film and realize just how monumental it really was.

The funny thing is that I remember on the day that I was sitting in the movie theater when I first saw the film (I was in Tel Aviv at the time, I remember), I had a key chain that was designed to beep when a person would whistle. When the music would start or when Whoopi Goldberg would shriek, the key chain would go off every time. I was constantly trying to cover it up so as not to disturb the people around me. Since that first viewing, I have found it much more relaxing to watch the film without such distractions, but even so, the film truly is a masterpiece, and it deserves all the credit that it did not receive in 1985.
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on January 19, 2003
By turns devastating and uplifting, Steve Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is one of those rare films that effectively captures and builds on the book's underlying themes and moods. Epic and grand in its exectution, "The Color Purple" is accessible to viewers of any race and is no more an "african-american" film than "Gone With the Wind" was a "southern" film. The themes presented here - tolerance, integration, poverty, aspiration and assimilation - are universal and real and Spielberg delivers a potent mix of superb film technique, a well-crafted plot and simply said, breakthtakingly heartfelt performances from an all-star cast.
Whoopie Goldberg earned an Oscar nod for her amazing performance as Celie, literally transforming herself from the stand-up comedienne we all know and love into a sensitive woman-child whose life is a mix of tragedy and triumph. Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey are bookends in Celie's life - they embody their characters fully and in doing so, complete a triad of powerful women coping with fear, loss and repression that testify to the unique challenges women, and especially women of color, face even today. Very few films deserve to be classified as required viewing for all - "Schindler's List" "Birth of a Nation" are two that come to mind - and "The Color Purple" is one of them. Filled with raw dramatic power and awe-inspiring humanity, "The Color Purple" is a film for the ages. Read the book and watch the film to see how great film adaptations are done!
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on November 14, 2005
I just recently watched this film again and, after all these years, I am still enthralled.

The story, for those who are not familiar, is based on a series of letters to God from a girl, and then woman, named Celie. Over the years, Celie is separated from her sister, stuck in an arranged marriage with a wife beater and ultimately comes to her own epiphany which sets about a series of changes in all of the characters.

This is a movie you can get lost in, as both the acting and the directing are top knotch. It is rare to find a film that does not shock you out of its world at some point.

One of the things I appreciate the most is the transfer. Most films are transfered to video/DVD without the direction of the cinematographer. This quick, cheap process ends up with a film that loses its original brilliance. It would have been a shame if Speilberg had not had Daviau present at the transfer. And, because he did, the colors pop out at you the same way they did in the theater.

When the film came out, I saw it in the theater. That year, Out of Africa swept the Oscars, which I feel is a shame as both the direction and cinematography of this film far outshine the winner.

I would get the single disc over the two disc in this instance, unless you are really into this film. The extra features are interesting, but not really compelling.
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on November 17, 2000
"The Color Purple" ranks as one of the saddest films in the entire history of cinema. Directed by legendary director "Steven Spielberg," this was the film that marked the film debuts of some of today's most notable African-American celebrities, notably Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.
While many felt that Spielberg shouldn't have been selected to direct this tale of life in the South because of his religion and California upbringing, Mr. Spielberg's work stands as one of the best films of the 1980's. His style and sensibility to the novel's characters and actions gave him the respect that he deserved and dispelled his critics. A pioneer, Mr. Spielberg refused to edit out the lesbian kiss that Shug (Margaret Avery) and Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) share towards the middle of the film. Keeping true to Alice Walker's original vision, Mr. Spielberg's decision to keep the scene was a breakthrough for gay characters and plots in today's cinema.
This film will make anyone cry, and I can't watch the final scene where Celie's happiness to see her loved ones after so many years is so intense without crying. Whoopi's performance in this film can't ever be repeated, especially after she went the comedy route in her later films. It was her first film performance and it was her best.
Oprah Winfrey's performance is also one of the most stirring. The scene where she is beaten unconsciously by an angry white mob is both disturbing and tragic, and her physical state after being released from prison will break your heart. Danny Glover is truly amazing as Celie's abusive husband, and so is Margaret Avery as Shug. I find it so upsetting that Rae Dawn Chong was given credit in the cast list seeing that her appearance in the film was one of the shortest in the film (at most only 12 minutes out of 2 hours). I guess the producers felt that Chong's name would attract more filmgoers, especially after the success of her film "Soul Man".
Quincy Jones gospel and African-inspired score is one of the best scores in the past ten years. The scenes where we are transported to Africa to see a sacrifice will keep your suspense up, as well as the gospel performance at the end where Shug reconciles with her father at the church.
Overall this is one of the greatest films to be ever made. It represents the life so many African-Americans had to go through after Reconstruction and during the Great Depression. If you must see a film of the African-American experience in the Deep South, this is it. "The Color Purple" is a film gem for all times.
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