While some might regard Schindler’s List as Spielberg’s finest venture into hard-hitting drama, The Color Purple could certainly give it a run for its money. Up until this point, a filmmaker like Steven Spielberg taking on a serious drama like this might raise some eyebrows (no matter how much heart E.T. may have had), but now audiences have pretty much realized that Spielberg can do anything. And when you consider the fact that it was Spielberg, and not a director like Spike Lee, who took on the powerful racial issues and mostly tragic story of this film, that makes it all the more impressive. My review of the Blu-ray after the jump:
Set in the late 1930’s, The Color Purple follows several African American people living in a small Southern town including Whoopi Goldberg as a young girl named Celie abused by her father and then finds herself forced into the marriage of another abusive man named Mister (Danny Glover) who beats her and turns her into nothing more than a servant and slave. Glover is commanding and just all around diabolical as he makes her life a living hell. Goldberg also shines as tears roll down her face and she struggles through the hardships of raising Miser’s several kids in the midst of being separated from her younger sister Nettie (Akosua Busia). Time passes until we’re eventually introduced to Sophia (Oprah Winfrey) who is marrying Mister’s oldest son Harpo (Willard Pugh). Winfrey is fantastic a strong-willed woman who refuses to deal with Harpo falling into the same behavior as his father and ends up leaving him.
As this family epic unfolds, so does much more grief and sadness. This story truly is a tragic one, and while there are moments of triumph and happiness, they are few and far between. Goldberg and Winfrey both make you feel their pain and it makes you hate Glover’s character that much more. Of course, this much troubling drama can take its toll on you after two and a half hours, and while the performances are captivating, it doesn’t stop the third act of the film from dragging a little too long. By that point, there’s been so much strife that you just want it all to end, so that may be the culprit here. However, it doesn’t stop the film from standing the test of time 25 years later and delivering a tough, historical family drama that will bring a year to your eye.
If you’re already in possession of the two-disc special edition DVD release, you won’t find any new special features on this Blu-Ray release. But the case for the film itself does feature a 40-page hardback book full of photos, biographies of the cast and crew, some trivia, and background information on the novel on which the film is based.
Otherwise here’s a rundown of the special features:
Conversations with Ancestors: The Color Purple from Book to Screen — This featurette goes behind the scenes of the film, but mostly deals with the adaptation of the book, some background on the novel and contains mostly interviews with Spielberg and author Alice Walker who really have some great insights into how the film came together.
A Collaboration of Spirits: Casting and Acting The Color Purple — As if it needs a description, this special feature has extended conversations with the case of the film, including Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, both unproven actresses at the time who talk openly about the controversial story and more powerful scenes in the film.
Cultivating a Classic: The Making of The Color Purple — This featurette delves into the actual production of the film more than the other features as we see various aspects of filmmaking from the set design, to costume design and a spectacular focus on the cinematography.
The Color Purple: The Musical — The shortest of the special features, this is merely a brief talk with Quincy Jones who crafted the music for Spielberg’s drama.
Still Galleries Two sets of photos chronicling both the production and the cast. Nothing too special here.
Trailers – Three trailers for the film are featured on this release.
THE FINAL WORD: Though the Blu-Ray release sadly doesn’t include any new supplementary material for the 25th Anniversary release, the 40-page book included as part of the disc packaging is a nice treat. The film has never looked better on this HD Blu-Ray transfer, and if you’re a fan of Spielberg’s drama and want the best quality presentation possible for your home, then this is worth picking up.
Before 1985, director Steven Spielberg had been at the helm of some big sci-fi and adventure films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the first two installments of the Indiana Jones franchise and of course the underwater thriller Jaws. So it comes as a bit of a surprised that the filmmaker ended up delivering a powerful historical drama in the form of The Color Purple. And it’s even more mystifying that two of the best performances from the film ended up coming from then-unproven actresses Whoopi Goldberg and present-day TV icon Oprah Winfrey. For my take on the 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray release of this stellar period drama, hit the jump.