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Movies on HBO: THE COLOR PURPLE (2023)

by Jef Dinsmore
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Right off the bat, I got to ask why this movie is even needed. It has been declared a wonderful iteration, but is it a necessary one? Somehow Warner Bros. deemed it necessary for a retelling for ‘a new generation’ when it comes to this Alice Walker story. I can never figure out why cherished well-honored movies warrant remakes for a new age. If you want a perfect fine telling of THE COLOR PURPLE seek out the 1985 Steven Spielberg version. Though it is not a 100% rendering of Walker’s novel it is the definitive cinematic telling of Celie Harris-Johnson’s story. It still has an impact to this day. 

In this case, though, you can cite that the 2023 movie is a version of the 2005 Broadway musical of the same name. Only it isn’t. The adaptation of the stage musical was greatly truncated as thirteen numbers out of over two dozen pieces were excised for the movie. So, again I ask, why is THE COLOR PURPLE (2023) necessary? 

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My only answer to its necessity was because executive producers Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, and Oprah Winfrey deemed it so. Another reason is that they saw the right director for the work in Blitz Bazawule and he and his casting team procured diverse talents like Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, People_Blitz-BazawuleCorey Hawkins, Gabriella Wilson “H.E.R.”, Halle Bailey, Louis Gossett Jr., Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, Ciara, Jon Batiste, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, and Fantasia Barrino in her film debut, plus, Whoopi Goldberg in a cameo. Bazawule is a Ghanaian multimedia artist who was a co-director of Beyonce’s Black is King and made his feature debut with the critically acclaimed Afrofuturistic The Burial of Kojo.

Deadline stated, “Although Spielberg’s version still resonates”, the direction of Bazawule “brings a unique vision that makes this version stand on its own as an authentic and valuable addition to The Color Purple legacy.” The Associated Press remarked, “It can still be an awkward mix, and, like Spielberg’s movie, not all of the tonal changes work in this version of The Color Purple. But the payoff is immense, as are the thrilling performances at the movie’s center.” But the Observer (UK) noted, “It’s a punishingly bleak story, and the songs, with their antiseptic polished sheen, seem fundamentally out of tune with the unforgiving grit of the plot.”

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One thing is for sure, this movie holds fast to a theme in the movie and that is – resilience. This iteration does seem to stand on its own, it does seem to have its powerful performances. For me, if I choose to take in the story again, I’ll stick to the original as I don’t need the musical numbers to enrich the strong emotional impact any more than what the 1985 version gave us. That’s just me, take in this version of the epic saga that is THE COLOR PURPLE on HBO and streaming on Max. It is a story to be experienced regardless of which version you seek out.  

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