Standing Up All These Years Later
As a young child Celie (Desreta Jackson/Whoopi Goldberg) endured all manner of cruelty as her father Alphonso "James" Harris (Leonard Jackson) raped her and sold the two children she had off to others and then sold her off to Mister (Danny Glover) who wants someone to look after his home and children and to take advantage of sexually. When Celie's sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) comes to stay her refusal to let any man push her about whilst teaching Celie to read causes problems and she is forced to leave. Throughout Celie's life with Mister she meets various people who teach her to stand up for herself including Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) who marries Mister's eldest son Harpo (Willard E. Pugh).
That synopsis barely covers what goes on in "The Color Purple" and I could write paragraph after paragraph telling you what happens but that would spoil one of the great movies of the 80s. But I have given you a gist of what it is about; that Celie from a young age suffered all manner of abuse firstly from the man she knows as her father and then from the man she is forced to marry who not only abuses her but tries to abuse her sister when she comes to stay. But we then see how the women she meets help her to stand up for herself when it comes to being used and abused. And it is an amazing story which evolves bit by bit as things start to turn around in an uplifting manner.
That is one of the reasons why "The Color Purple" is so good as it evolves and draws you in to the situation of this young girl who becomes a woman and an inspiration. Now it would be fair to say that how the story evolves when actually thought about is contrived but do you know what some of the best stories have a contrived, unbelievable aspect. They also have a touch of humour and the wedding scene between Harpo and Sofia is spot on with the comedy but also highlighting the drama. Kudos to Steven Spielberg for managing to deliver this movie like a great raconteur, making the darkness dark but switching to humour without it feeling out of place and making it sweet when it needs to be.
On the subject of Spielberg and along with him cinematographer Allen Daviau "The Color Purple" is a truly beautiful looking movie with a sense of scale and beauty which at times reminds me of "Gone With the Wind". From fiery skies to the camera work of children playing in between the stalks of maize it is truly beautiful.
The beauty extends to the performances and whilst Whoopi Goldberg's performance is the standout one which is sweet, dramatic yet also comical there is not a bad performance in the movie with Danny Glover delivering that balancing act of playing it nasty but getting the comedy parts just right. And Oprah Winfrey delivers again a comical performance but also gets that drama in there. So yes whilst Whoopi Goldberg blows you away and looks a lot younger than her age as Celie it is a collective of good performances which help make this story leap off of the screen.
What this all boils down to is that "The Color Purple" is an example of good old fashioned story telling from everyone involved be it the sublime performance of Whoopi Goldberg to the perfect direction of Steven Goldberg. It makes you question how "The Color Purple" could be nominated for 11 Oscars and yet not come away with a single one.