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It's the early 1900s in America's Deep South, and life is tough for young Celie (Descreta Jackson), an Afro-American girl impregnated by her cruel father (Leonard Jackson). Forced to put her two children up for adoption, she's given to the widower Albert (Danny Glover) as a wife, who beats, rapes and bars her from all contact with her beloved kid-sister Nettie (Akousa Busia). As Celie grows into womanhood (Whoopi Goldberg), friendships with a nightclub singer (Margaret Avery), a sassy sister-in-law (Oprah Winfrey), the kind Old "Mr" (Adolph Ceaser) and the classy Miss Millie (Dana Ivey) help her overcome the past, hold her head high and find her place in the world.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Steven Spielberg's 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel remains celebrated yet contentious. Met with wide applause by mostly white audiences, it was nominated for 11 Oscars, but infamously won none - which was sweet justice according to most Afro-American audiences. They accused the director of stripping the book's first person narrative, which gave it an intimate detail, and sentimentalising the story, a typical Spielberg trait.

Still, this was Spielberg's first attempt at heavy drama, and although it comes short of the powerful book it's based on, it's a tender, bittersweet depiction of an Afro-American woman's journey to selfhood against all odds. And it is significant. It opened the eyes of the world to the plight of poverty-stricken Afro-American families. Credit for that is due not only to Walker's book, or to the power of Spielberg's tender adaptation, but to the performances of the cast. Whoopi Goldberg - before reducing herself to a smug comedic actress - is astonishing as Walker's doleful, downtrodden heroine, the cowering Celie. Danny Glover turns in an intensely scary performance as her abusive husband, and Oprah Winfrey - before becoming the talkshow queen - is frumpily good as a prideful member of Celie's rural Georgia family.

Not to be confused with the previously released single disc edition, this special two disc package contains no commentary, but it does contain interesting features on disc two. In Conversations, Walker discusses the transition from page to screen, explaining how she changed locations three times, was accused of being too nice by her family, and was shocked to win the Pulitzer. Collaboration is an amusing documentary about how the actors overcame the odds to earn and keep their parts. Goldberg, for instance,
performed stand-up as her audition. Cultivating a Classic delves into other interesting facets of the production, such as how Spielberg was called away from the birth scene to witness the birth of his first born. Finally is The Musical, a 7 minute look at the Quincy Jones music score and songs. Disc two rounds off with photo galleries for production and publicity shots.

The Color Purple is about how people deal with terrible situations, are shaped by them and gradually transformed over time. Whatever your opinion of Spielberg's admittedly melodramatic adaptation, this emotional, moving film will live long in the memory.

Published March 25, 2004

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(US, 1985)

CAST: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Adolph Caesar, Margaret[BREAK]Avery, Rae Dawn Chong.

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

RUNNING TIME: 148 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: March 17, 2004

PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and Crew, Awards, Teaser Trailers, Theatrical Trailer, Conversations with Ancestors, A Collaboration of Spirits, Cultivating a Classic, The Color Purple: The Musical, Gallery: Behind the Scenes, Gallery: The Cast

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