For Colored Girls
"For Colored Girls" stars Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Michael Ealy, Kimberly Elise, Omari Hardwick, Hill Harper, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington and Whoopi Goldberg. Lionsgate and Tyler Perry Studios

"For Colored Girls" doesn't do justice to the play it's based upon. However, the talent Tyler Perry has assembled here cannot be denied.

I remember reading "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Not Enuf" - a compilation of poems or monologues, actually - and thinking I had not ever experienced anything quite like it. Author Ntozake Shange created seven nameless characters, each represented by a color ("Lady in Purple," for example). Each of the characters is empowered by an experience or a choice.

The play is about strength, and so is the movie. Because of the setting, the poetry isn't as compelling as it is in the play, but the performers who play the characters are compelling indeed. This is a movie that will make you feel. And, unlike many of Perry's other films, it has very little in the way of comic relief. This is serious material, for grownup audiences, that deals with the private lives of men and women.

Tyler adds some characters to those depicted in the play. Among them are:

- Crystal (Kimberly Elise), who is abused by her man.

- Jo (Janet Jackson), whose affluent life and career mask an unstable marriage.

- Tangie (Thandie Newton), who leads a promiscuous lifestyle.

- Alice (Whoopi Goldberg), a religious mother who can't understand the behavior of either of her two daughters.

The ageless Phylicia Rashad plays the landlord of an apartment complex where much of the action unfolds.

What happens to these women isn't always easy to watch. One unsuspecting woman unknowingly invites a felon into her life and pays a ghastly price. Another woman tries to understand how her man, who has come home from the war, is suffering and simultaneously tries to hold down a job for a demanding boss. Another woman sees abortion as her only way out of an unwanted pregnancy while another woman discovers that she cannot bear children because of a previous intimacy.

The situations are true-to-life and often heart-rending. One scene involving two little children is devastating, while in another, a little boy brings to life an all-too-realistic domestic violence situation when he hears a struggle in the next room and asks, "Is that my mama?"

It might startle viewers of Perry's previous movies to hear dialogue delivered in soliloquies. This isn't the way people actually talk, but then again, it's not meant to be. Sadly, the situations themselves will ring true and will wrench your heart.