Sexual politics is not what it used to be. Though it doesn't seem like everyone has got the memo. The latest Tyler Perry film is based on a play by Nitozake Shange that was originally staged in the 1970s. I'm not sure that Perry and those involved with the making of this film are aware, but things between the sexes have changed. Depicting the way that women can empower themselves exclusively in regards to their relationships with men is old fashioned. It doesn't apply anymore.
Though Tyler Perry's heart is obviously in the right place his straight forward and literal style of directing does not work with this at times poetic material. The film goes a long way towards proving that a man who often dresses up in dresses (as Perry has done in several films) does not understand the fairer of the sexes any better than most men do.
Nine African-American women are in and out of each others lives. What they all have in common is they struggle with loving themselves enough to allow others to love and respect them. Tangie (Thandie Newton – The Pursuit of Happyness, 2012) is a bartender who uses men for sex. She believes that this empowers her. All it does is leave her alone and her mother Alice (Whoopie Goldberg – Sister Act, Ghost), a religious woman, irate. While Alice battles constantly with Tangie, she believes that her other daughter the dance instructor Nyla (Tessa Thompson – When a Stranger Calls) is close to perfection. That puts much pressure on Nyla and does not allow her to come to her mother with her problems.
Crystal (Kimberly Elise – John Q, Beloved) is strong enough to deal with her children and a demanding boss, but doesn't know what to do about her disturbed, alcoholic war veteran of a boyfriend who is a danger to her and her two kids. Crystal's boss is Jo (Janet Jackson – Why Did I Get Married, Poetic Justice), a demanding magazine editor who is married to a man (Omari Hardwick – Kick Ass, The A-Team) she has so completely emasculated that he is now sleeping with men behind her back.
Juanita (Loretta Devine – Crash, I Am Sam) doesn't really trust her on again off again lover. Jasmine (Anika Noni Rose – Dreamgirls, The Princess and the Frog) is blissfully unaware that she should not trust the man she is with. Kelly (Kerry Washington – The Last King of Scotland, Ray) works as a social worker and is with a loving man, but is stressed over the fact that she cannot seem to conceive a child because of some previous abuse at the hands of a man. Gilda (Phylicia Rashad – from television's The Cosby Show) is the mother hen to them all who tries to dispense sage advice when needed.
For Coloured Girls is so over-the-top and soap opera-like that it becomes laughable. None of the messages it is trying to convey, in a very direct way, get through because you cannot take any of it seriously. The male characters in the film are so cliché (the alcoholic, the abuser, the cheaters, etc) that they just become caricatures. The ridiculousness is even further amplified when the lives of all become intertwined in one way or another. I just felt like yelling "Please!" to the screen on many an occasion. For every trauma that happens to the female characters there is an equally traumatizing speech she gives right after. Who could do this? In reality most of us would not be even close to the right frame of mind to accomplish this. Hooey!
What is the ultimate tragedy is that the cast of this film is quite talented. When you have a who's who of African-American actresses like Whoopie Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anike Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, and Loretta Devine you've got some serious acting chomps going for you. Unfortunately they cannot save this mess.