Review: The Color Purple (2023)

Posted in Drama, Film Reviews, Film Reviews 2023, Genre, Musical by - December 21, 2023
Review: The Color Purple (2023)

The Color Purple (2023)
PG-13  ‧ Musical Drama ‧ 2 Hours 20 Minutes
Written by Marcus Gardley
Directed by  Blitz Bazawule


Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Halle Bailey, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, and Fantasia Barrino in her film debut as Celie.


(In their own words). Torn apart from her sister and her children, Celie faces many hardships in life, including an abusive husband. With support from a sultry singer named Shug Avery, as well as her stand-her-ground stepdaughter, Celie ultimately finds extraordinary strength in the unbreakable bonds of a new kind of sisterhood.


The BEST things about the film

  1. Performances: The cast, led by Fantasia Barrino as Celie, is ripe with outstanding performances. Each actor, including Taraji P. Henson, who plays Shug Avery, Danielle Brooks as Sofia, and Colman Domingo as “Mister,” brings depth and authenticity to their roles. Their acting abilities convey their characters’ complex emotions and experiences, significantly enhancing the film’s impact. As “Mister,” Domingo is so good at being a bad guy that you truly hate him as Celie’s lifelong antagonist/captor/abuser. 
  2. Music: Despite some songs feeling like additions rather than integral parts of the plot, the overall musical score is highlighted as a strong point. The soulful tunes effectively complement the narrative’s emotional landscape. Giving scenes a bit longer and sometimes more vital, lasting impressions than they otherwise would have.  
  3. Character Development and Storytelling: The film is commended for its exploration of deeper themes and for providing a fresh take on the story. It delves into some of the characters’ lives with more detail than the original film and explores the themes of strength, sisterhood, and resilience amidst adversity.


The WORST things about the Film

  • Music as an Accessory Rather Than Integral: At times, the songs in the film felt more like extensions of scenes rather than essential parts of the narrative. This approach makes the music seem less integrated into the story, potentially disrupting the flow and reducing the impact that a more seamlessly integrated musical element could have had.
  • Comparisons with the Original Film: There’s a sense that while this adaptation adds new layers to the story, it inevitably invites comparisons with Spielberg’s classic 1980s film. For fans of the original, this might lead to mixed feelings, as some might prefer how certain scenes or characters were portrayed in the earlier version.
  • Emotional Intensity and Heavy Themes: The film’s focus on challenging themes like domestic abuse and racial oppression, while powerful and important, might make it a difficult watch for some viewers. While a strength in storytelling, the emotional intensity could also be overwhelming, especially for those seeking lighter, more escapist cinema.


“The Color Purple,” a 2023 adaptation of the Broadway musical, revisits the poignant story initially brought to life in Alice Walker’s novel and later in Steven Spielberg’s 1980s film starring Whoopi Goldberg. This latest version, directed by Blitz Bazawule, offers a fresh, musically infused perspective on the tale, enhancing certain aspects of the story that were less explored in Spielberg’s adaptation.

The narrative centers around Celie’s journey through a life marred by abuse and injustice, set against the backdrop of the early 1900s South, a time and place fraught with racial and gender-based oppression. Despite these challenges, Celie finds solace and strength in her relationships, particularly with Shug Avery (her husband’s sometimes lover) and her stepdaughter Sofia.

 These relationships underline the film’s central themes of resilience, sisterhood, and the enduring power of hope.

Colman Domingo’s portrayal of Mr. is particularly striking. He masterfully navigates the complexity of his character, transforming from a seemingly kind individual into a formidable antagonist.

Musically, the film excels, integrating soulful tunes that resonate with the story’s emotional highs and lows. However, the songs sometimes appear more as embellishments than essential narrative elements. While not diminishing the film’s overall impact, this approach suggests a slight imbalance between the musical and dramatic components. Songs should happen when words alone aren’t enough. This musical forgets that tenant.

The performances across the board are noteworthy, with each actor bringing authenticity and emotional depth to their roles. The film navigates its heavy themes with a careful balance of intensity and sensitivity, making the viewer’s journey through the story both heart-wrenching and inspiring.


  • Strength in Adversity: The film powerfully illustrates how individuals can find strength even in the most challenging circumstances. Celie’s journey is one marked by abuse and hardship, but she survives. She survives a lot that other people couldn’t have.
  • The Importance of Sisterhood and Supportive Relationships: The narrative emphasizes the significance of sisterhood and supportive relationships in overcoming life’s challenges. The bonds Celie forms with characters like Shug Avery and her stepdaughter Sofia play a crucial role in her journey toward empowerment.
  • Hope as a Source of Resilience: One of the film’s key messages is the enduring power of hope. Despite facing numerous obstacles, the characters’ hope for a better future gives them the strength to endure and strive for change.


Yes, and the music makes it more rewatchable than the original, one of my all-time favorite films.


I appreciate the film’s compelling performances, especially featuring Fantasia Barrino and Colman Domingo’s outstanding roles. The musical score is soulful and impactful, although there are moments where it feels more like an addition than a core part of the narrative. For me, the film stands out for going deeper into the characters and themes, more so than previous versions, effectively touching on resilience, sisterhood, and hope amidst tough challenges. While it naturally draws comparisons to Spielberg’s iconic version, and its heavy themes may not appeal to everyone, its emotional richness, top-notch acting, and a fresh take on this beloved story make it a must-watch.



This post was written by
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas Lindenstein can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.

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