It is 1922 in the American South when The Color Purple opens with two African American sisters, Nettie and Celie Harris (oldest) playing joyfully in a field of purple flowers. Fourteen year old Celie is pregnant for the second time by her father. When she gives birth her father takes it away.
Shortly after, Albert Johnson calls on the Harris household to request Nettie, who he believes is the prettier of the two, as his wife but father Harris says no and forces the used Celie upon him. In the Johnson household she is forced into raising his three kids as well as suffering further physical and sexual abuse.
In the mean time, Nettie runs away from her father to avoid being raped like her sister. She tries to live with Celie and her new family but it isn't long before Albert sets his sights on having her. While she keeps him at bay she and Celie decide to learn how to read and write so they can keep in contact when Nettie leaves. Part of the learning process involves them reading Oliver Twist together. Nettie ends up having to go quicker than expected when Albert tries to rape her. Her rebuff leaves her unwelcome.
The departure of her sister of course depresses Celie but it isn't long before she is making friends with the eldest son, Harpo's new girlfriend. A thick and bossy woman named Sophia. The shy Celie and the abrupt Sophia make strange friends but help balance out one another personalities.
The story spans forty years from the time the girls are separated until when Celie is reunited with her beautiful children who never had to experience the kind of hardship she went through. Throughout the movie Celie's character never really matures, I think mostly because of circumstance. If she were to mature she probably would have been in more danger.
All of the characters are relevant and interesting. This was Whoopi's feature film debut as (Celie [Harris] Johnson). I don't think anyone else could have played Celie as superbly as she did. The Color Purple stars some of Hollywood's finest actors: Danny Glover (Albert Johnson); Akosua Busia (Nettie Harris); Oprah Winfrey (Sofia); Margaret Avery (Shug Avery); Willard Pugh (Harpo Johnson); Adolph Caesar (Old Mister Johnson); Rae Dawn Chong (Squeak); Leonard Jackson (Pa Harris); Laurence Fishburne (Swain).
This film is based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker which one a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983. Warner Brothers adapted this story about the bond between two sisters to a film version and it was directed by Steven Spielberg. It went on to be nominated for fourteen Academy Awards.
Over twenty years later The Color Purple is still worth the time and tears to watch. It includes many powerful themes including incest, physical abuse, family, lesbianism and of course discrimination (skin color, women, sexual preference, societal). Whether you read the book or not, this film is a must see for its emotional content, character interaction and literary relevance.
The Color Purple is available from Amazon.com.
The Color Purple is available from Amazon.ca.
M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada. If you are going to find this eclectic reader and writer anywhere it is probably at her computer. For more information visit her official website.