The Color Purple (12A, 141 mins)
Verdict: A few splendid scenes
Danielle Brooks has an Oscar nomination to show for her barnstorming performance in The Color Purple, in which she plays Sofia, as bold and defiant as her victimised friend Celie (Fantasia Barrino) is timid.
Just like last week’s release, Mean Girls, The Color Purple is a screen musical based on a stage musical, which was based on a film which was based on a book. That propels it about as far as possible from the original source, Alice Walker’s acclaimed but turgid 1982 novel about the tribulations of a young African-American woman in early 20th-century Georgia and the redemptive power of female friendship.
Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P Henson on the set of The Color Purple
Danielle Brooks has an Oscar nomination to show for her barnstorming performance in The Color Purple, in which she plays Sofia
The songs and lively dance routines aren’t always a natural fit with a narrative that, among other things, is about incest and domestic abuse. But perhaps that was ever thus. The much-loved Fiddler On The Roof, after all, is set against the backdrop of anti-Semitic pogroms.
And there are certainly a few splendid scenes, although the greatest thing about this over-long musical might be the producers: Steven Spielberg (who directed the 1985 film), Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones.
Jackdaw (15, 97 mins)
Oliver Jackson-Cohen stars in Jackdaw
From masses of experience to hardly any, two low-budget British films this week are by first-time writer-directors, both of whom show oodles of promise.
Jamie Childs’s Jackdaw is a gloomy thriller set in the industrial north-east where ex-soldier Jack Dawson (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) needs to find his abducted brother, while fighting off a local gangster. It’s relentlessly downbeat but stylishly done. And I wonder whether the tall, handsome Jackson-Cohen might be an outside bet for the new James Bond?
On The Line (12, 74 mins)
Victoria Lucie plays Agnes, a telephone exchange operator caught up in a drama, in Oliver Pearn’s On The Line
On various streaming platforms, including Apple TV, Oliver Pearn’s On The Line — not to be confused with a recent film of the same title starring Mel Gibson — is reminiscent of Steven Knight’s brilliant Locke (2013) in that the narrative cleverly builds on the back of one person’s conversations with disembodied others.
Victoria Lucie plays Agnes, a telephone exchange operator on Alderney in 1964, whose exchanges with various islanders (one of them voiced by Harriet Walter, no less) lead her to believe that a woman is in mortal danger.
In many ways it could just as easily be a Radio 4 afternoon play, but it’s a pleasure to see that period switchboard in action. Pearn, like Childs, is one to watch.