After watching the new The Color Purple musical, I decided to check out the original film again – and now, I have a whole new appreciation for Celie (Whoopi Goldberg’s Celie, that is).
So here’s the thing – I love the original The Color Purple. I saw it for the first time many years ago when I was in high school, and I remember it being one of the few films that made me sob my absolute eyes out because I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was heartwrenching in the worst ways, but it uplifted my soul so high I couldn’t stop thinking about it for years.
It’s been nearly eight years since I graduated high school, and I haven’t seen Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple in a long time. And, with the new musical out, I thought it would be a good idea to rewatch the original film before checking out this new version – and I have to say that after, I have a whole new appreciation for Whoopi Goldberg’s Celie. These are my reasons why.
First Of All, Whoopi Goldberg’s Acting Is Incredible As Always
Let’s start simply with pure talent – something about Whoopi Goldberg’s performance knocks me off my feet every time.
I’m not throwing any shade at The Color Purple cast for the musical. The talented Fantasia Barrino shines in her role. Danielle Brooks of the Orange is the New Black cast has a standout role here, and Taraji P. Henson makes me want to get up and sing. The musical cast is incredibly gifted and truly brings the songs to life.
Why Whoopi Goldberg’s The Color Purple Cameo Was ‘The Perfect Part’ For Her According To The Screenwriter
But, there is something so raw about Goldberg’s performance that does it for me more.
From the moment the original begins, I am now on Celie’s side more than ever, and my heart breaks with every scene she's in. Goldberg can showcase that authentic trauma and pain inflicted on her in such a natural and visceral way that I can’t imagine anyone else playing it so well.
Barrino is great, but Goldberg is unique in my heart.
Celie’s Journey Feels More Real Without The Musical Aspect
Alright, here’s where I have to say that while I love musicals, I can’t take The Color Purple musical seriously.
Anyone who knows me has learned that musicals are my thing. I love watching classic movie musicals, seeing new ones, or even learning what the casts of movie musicals have been doing years later, like the West Side Story cast or the Into the Woods cast.
But I can’t get behind the musical version of The Color Purple because it feels like it takes away from the authenticity and realness of Celie’s story. Don’t get me wrong, the music is freaking fantastic. I wanted to get out of my seat so many times to dance.
The thing is, though, I don’t think The Color Purple should be the musical where you should feel joyful pretty much throughout. The end is really where it starts to become better, but for example, at the beginning, when Celie is at her lowest, watching people burst out in song makes it feel less natural. The original version is so powerful with pure emotion that I was captivated.
And Her Ending With Mister Is So Much More Genuine
Something else I noticed on my rewatch of The Color Purple is that I really like the ending with Mister a lot more in the original than I did in the musical.
Both offer the same theme of forgiveness, of moving past something horrible that has happened, and both provide a great scene towards the end where Mister helps Celie reunite with her sister after decades of not seeing her.
However, Danny Glover brings that to another level in the original, where we see how much he truly tries to change and become someone slightly better than before. It’s certainly there in the musical, but it doesn’t feel like it’s one of the main themes anymore, which I’m not the biggest fan of.
Seeing Celie Open Up Her Own Shop Sparked Something New In Me
Another major aspect of both the original movie and the musical version is that Celie opens up her tailor shop thanks to the store passing down to her after her father dies. The scene where she gets it in the musical is another instance where it would have been better if there was just no music.
Celie opening up her store, where she finally gets to live independently and freely after so many years of oppression, hatred, and so much more thrown her way, chokes me up the same way it did when I was a teenager. It’s that last hump, the final obstacle, that she endures before we truly begin to see her shine.
The musical scene is enjoyable, and it certainly feels very uplifting, but with just the score there, it would have been so much more powerful and let the audience sit with their feelings and celebrate with Celie.
And I Strive To Have Celie’s Capability For Love And Forgiveness In The 1985 Version
While Celie in the musical is forgiving, Celie in the original has the kind of forgiveness and compassion I want to live up to.
Danny Glover is an incredibly talented actor in many ways, and from the moment I saw him in the first The Color Purple, I knew that he was awesome because he found a way for me to despise him as Mister, which is what made Celie’s forgiveness of him so much more astounding to view.
I still strive to reach that level of forgiveness, kindness and love that she shared despite everything she'd been through. The original felt so candid and unembellished by musical numbers that every part was perfect.
That Last Scene With Celie And Nettie Still Gets Me, Though – Sisters Reunited Once More
However, one scene still hits just as hard in both versions – Celie and Nettie reuniting.
Whether in musical form or the original, watching Celie and Nettie finally find each other after decades apart is everything I could have wanted and more. I get teary-eyed every time I think about it. There’s nothing quite like sisters reuniting.
While I will say that Celie in the original is a much more complex and compassionate character, both offer valuable lessons about forgiveness, passion, and striving for a better tomorrow. Both are excellent films in their own right.
But for now, I might turn to something like the best rom-com out there to make me happy, because both versions still make me remember how sad those topics are. Maybe another musical will lift my spirits up – but there’s no denying the pure and unbreakable spirit that Celie has brought us, whether in the original or the new musical.