The Color Purple | Chicago Reader

The Color Purple

Though Steven Spielberg shifted his subject matter from mechanical thrills to human drama for this 1985 feature, he didn't alter his style one bit. After the relatively restrained opening half hour, there's a climax every ten minutes, each sequence so loaded with extraneous visual pizzazz, incongruous comic business, emphatic music cues, and wildly hyped emotionality that it's almost impossible to discern the narrative line. As Alice Walker's long-suffering heroine, Whoopi Goldberg functions as a pity magnet—as one character points out, she's black, poor, a woman, and ugly, the apotheosis of the disadvantaged. But the character is so maddeningly passive that our sympathy is exhausted long before he pulls the expected reversal. A lot of good actors (Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Adolph Caesar, Rae Dawn Chong) are lost to Spielberg's shallow melodrama; the only one who emerges with any clarity is Oprah Winfrey, perhaps because Spielberg shares her shameless crowd-pleasing instincts.

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