There are some great scenes and great performances in The Color Purple, but it is not a great film. Steven Spielberg’s turn at ‘serious’ filmmaking is marred in more than one place by overblown production that threatens to drown in its own emotions. But the characters created in Alice Walker’s novel are so vivid that even this doesn’t kill them off and there is still much to applaud (and cry about) here.
Walker’s tale is the story of a black family’s growth and flowering over a 40-year period in the south starting around 1909. At the center of everything is Celie, who as a young girl gives birth to two children and is then married into a life of virtual servitude to a man she can refer to only as Mr (Danny Glover).
Above all The Color Purple is a love story between Celie and her sister, Nettie, from whom she is separated at childhood, and, later in life, the blues singer Shug Avery.
Saving grace of the film are the performances. As the adult Celie debuting Whoopi Goldberg uses her expressive face and joyous smile to register the character’s growth. Equally good is Glover who is a powerful screen presence.
1985: Nominations: Best Picture, Actress (Whoopi Goldberg), Supp. Actress (Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Art Direction, Original Score, Song (‘Miss Celie’s Blues’), Make-Up