It’s very rare that an actor or actress can completely change my opinion of them with one performance; but Whoopi Goldberg definitely did with The Color Purple.
Inspired by the novel by Alice Walker, it follows the journey of Celie (Goldberg) who within the opening frames is abused, impregnated and shipped to be a maid for the equally abusive Albert (Danny Glover).
She is beaten from pillar to post, raped and left in fear of her life, with no way out it seems.
The story spans over a 28 year period in the early 1900s, in the rural south of America, with the slave trade in full swing.
As engrossing as the story is; it is the characters which make this a cut above; with stellar performances from Goldberg, Glover and even Oprah Winfrey.
Director Steven Spielberg really catches the emotion of the piece, with subtle scenes such as when Celie asks her ‘master’ if anything has come for her in the post, as she eagerly awaits word from her sister who is far away in Africa. The moment Celie’s face just drops is heartbreaking, especially when it turns out her sister has been writing to her but Albert has been hiding the letters.
Another issue which Spielberg tackles head-on is the racial tension between the black and white communities in the town; which is no better typified when Winfrey’s Sofia is sent to jail for an attack on a white whilst defending her children.
Sofia becomes what she despises on her release, becoming a maid for the Mayor’s wife; with the fight figuratively and physically beaten out of her.
In amongst all of this Celie is growing, and plotting her escape from this life she never wanted. Finally she stands up to Albert and takes control, and for the first time the roles are reversed.
Albert’s downward spiral in her absence is swift, and her liberation only misses one thing; her family.
The Color Purple is not enjoyable in the sense its entertaining, but more-so it’s vivid, it’s hard-hitting, often shocking but ultimately brilliant in its delivery. It’s just a shame Goldberg never really played a role as brilliant as this since.