It's a long, long way from the women's bar outside Berkeley, California — where Ntozake Shange first presented For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, in December 1974 — to Atlanta's Tyler Perry Studios, where the impresario filmed much of this calamitous adaptation.
Though striving for artistic legitimacy in bringing Shange's incomparable play to the screen, Perry indulges his worst instincts for melodrama, shoehorning Shange's text into his own tawdry narrative. Her play is a collection of 20 prose-poems performed by a cast of seven women, who suffer and mourn but are never victims. In Perry's version, almost all of them end up in the hospital.
Expanding the number of central characters to nine and writing roles for men who are only referred to in Shange's work, he re-creates the template found in many of his previous films: the martyred woman abused and/or deceived by her pathological mate. The greatest frustration is witnessing talented actresses struggle with the material they've been given. Anika Noni Rose takes off when reciting Shange's words, only to be brought down into the abyss of Perry's melodrama after she is date-raped.
Everything here is too much — or not enuf.