The Color Purple 2023 Book vs Movie Review

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)

The Color Purple directed by Blitz Bazawule (2023)

I have already done a comparison on the The Color Purple book and the 1985 movie so if you want to hear my thoughts on that movie, check out the above link. I also won’t go through the plot beat for beat the way I kind of did in that initial video. So if you want more details, definitely check out that post as well. I was probably too harsh with that movie at times with the changes it made from the book. I do think overall it is a really strong adaptation.

Book review

I read this book three times this year so if that doesn’t tell you it was amazing, I don’t know what else to say lol.

I will give a heads up that this book talks about sex and parts of the body in a very blunt way and we get a scene early on that depicts SA. In general there are a lot of heavy topics and parts that are very sad (to put it lightly). That could turn people off to this book, but if you stick with it, I promise you it is absolutely amazing and just so beautiful and you end the book just feeling so uplifted and filled with so much love for these characters. It is also a book that inspires your own self love and love for the world around you.

Movie review

I would highly recommend people see this in theaters. We get fantastic performances and I thought the cinematography looked great. There were some aspects of the book that I was missing, but nonetheless, I really loved it. It is nearly 2.5 hours but the time flies by. This movie also had me in tears because the story, the acting, and the music made it a very moving experience.

This version isn’t as heavy as the book or original movie. In part due to the songs, but there was also more humor I would say. That’s not to say there weren’t still a number of tough, emotional scenes though.

The original Braodway production of this musical was written by Marsha Norman and ran from 2005 to 2008 and from what I hear, the movie is the same as the show.

From here on out there will be spoilers going forward

Celie and Shug

A complaint I had with the original movie was that they didn’t show that Shug and Celie were in a committed relationship for years. The new movie does that same, where we see them bonding and see them kiss and wake up together but then that’s it. Next time we see Shug, she is married and she and Celie are just friends. Which is fine if you see the movie on its own. But when compared to the book I really want to see a movie show their relationship!

In the movie we see Shug come to stay with Celie and Albert and the two of them become close. Celie tells Shug that Albert is nice to her when Shug is around but once she leaves, he will start beating Celie again. We do not see the following scene that is in the book though where Shug tells Albert to stop hitting Celie. Here, Shug doesn’t confront Albert about this.

But during this stay is when they become romantic and we do get a really great musical number between the two of them which I loved. During this stay it is also when Shug sees that Nettie has been writing Celie.

Shug then leaves, and when she returns years later, she is married to Grady. It seems like they are hardly in town at all and we just get the scene at the table when they tell Albert that Celie is coming back with them. This is a fantastic scene in the movie as well as in the book of course.

She and Shug remains very close friends, and I’m not totally sure if Grady sticks around, but it does not make it seem like Shug and Celie they are in a long-term romantic relationship. It shows their love for each other of course, but it seems to be more of a friendship love.

In the book, Shug stays with them the first time and the two of them bond. Then she comes back a while later and is married to Grady. Albert is jealous of Grady, but the two of them quickly get along. While Grady and Albert hang out, Shug and Celie spend time together and it is during this stay that they are intimate and it turns into a relationship. This is also when Celie tells Shug about Nettie and Shug tells her she has seen Albert with a letter with all kinds of funny stamps. She later helps Celie find all of the letters.

Grady by the way starts to like Mary Agnes, and when they all head to Memphis together, Celie and Shug are now a thing, and Grady and Mary Agnes are together.

Shug

She and Shug stay together up until Shug falls for a young guy in her band. She breaks Celie’s heart when she tells her she is going to leave to be with him. She feels bad for hurting Celie, but also asks to be allowed to feel young again by running off with this guy.

In the book we read from Celie, “Sometimes I feel mad at her. Feel like I could scratch her hair right off her head. But then I think, Shug got a right to live too. She got a right to look over the world in whatever company she choose. Just cause I love her don’t take away none of her rights…If she come, I be happy. If she don’t, I be content. And then I figure this the lesson I was suppose to learn.”

This young guy encourages her to reach out to her children whom her parents had raised. One of her sons wants to meet her and Shug spends time with him. By connecting with her child, she is able to feel more whole and eventually returns home to Celie.

In the movie, Shug’s father is a reverend in town who doesn’t talk to her due to the life she lives. There is a scene when she talks about how she misses having him in her life, but that he doesn’t approve of her. Later in the film, she goes to the church and they sing together and that bond is healed.

Overall, this is a change I am fine with. However, I just didn’t think it was well done here. I was not feeling any emotion in regard to their broken relationship and didn’t really care when they are reunited.

Celie and Albert

One of my favorite parts in this book is the relationship Celie has with Albert. At the start, he is abusive and cruel. Then she leaves for Memphis and we get the scene when she tells him all the bad he has done to her will be brought back to him. She then lives in Memphis for a while, but she comes to visit home first when Sofia’s mom dies, then later to meet her stepdad (whom she thought was her biological father but thanks to Nettie, finds out this isn’t true), then again when her stepdad dies and she gets the house and the land. During these visits she hears from Sofia that Albert has been changing. He had a rough time and he was drinking a lot, and there is a story of Harpo going to see him and him cradling his father while they slept which was really sweet. Albert cleans up his act though and starts talking to Celie.

When Shug leaves, she and Albert begin spending a lot of time together and become friends. They bond over their love of Shug and there is a part where they are talking about what they love most about her, we read, “He say he love her style. He say to tell the truth, Shug act more manly than most men. I mean she upright, honest. Speak her mind and the devil take the hindmost, he say. You know Shug will fight, he say. Just like Sofia. She bound to live her life and be herself no matter what. Mr. _____ think all this is stuff men do. But Harpo not like this, I tell him. You not like this. What Shug got is womanly it seem like to me. Specially since she and Sofia the ones got it. Sofia and Shug not like men, he say, but they not like women either.”

He also asks her about her sexual orientation, and she tells him she has never been attracted to men and they are like frogs to her. We then read,  “Then he say something that really surprise me cause it so thoughtful and common sense. When it come to what folks do together with they bodies, he say, anybody’s guess is as good as mine. But when you talk bout love I don’t have to guess. I have love and I have been love. And I thank God he let me gain understanding enough to know love can’t be halted just cause some peoples moan and groan. It don’t surprise me you love Shug Avery, he say. I have love Shug Avery all my life.”

Another great section with Celie and Albert reads, “After all the evil he done I know you wonder why I don’t hate him. I don’t hate him for two reasons. One, he love Shug. And two, Shug use to love him. Plus, look like he trying to make something out of himself. I don’t mean just that he works and he clean up after himself and he appreciate some of the things God was playful enough to make. I mean when you talk to him now he really listen, and one time, out of nowhere in the conversation us was having, he said Celie, I’m satisfied this the first time I ever lived on Earth as a natural man. It feel like a new experience.”

We hear how Sofia and Harpo will bring men over to set Celie up with because they think two women being together is an accident. But when this happens, Albert will come by and see she is his wife and take her away, which again I thought was sweet. He accepts her for who she is and isn’t trying to convince her otherwise, and helps her get out of these set-up’s.

When Shug comes back, she sees in Celie’s room there is a carved wooden frog painted purple, and Celie says Albert made it for her. Celie loves the color purple, and the frog is because she says that’s what men are to her. This small detail was such a sweet scene.

In the movie, we see that Albert’s life gets bad when Celie leaves. He then gets a letter from Nettie to Celie, and she is saying they need help getting back from Africa. Albert wants to make things right with Celie, so he goes to the department office and provides paperwork they need and also sells some of his land to help pay to get Nettie back.

We later get a scene when he goes to Celie’s pants store and has some of her items, he is dropping off for her. He then picks out a pair of pants buy and he buys a pair from the clearance rack that are shiny silver saying, “I’ll help you by buying the ones that other people are buying.” He then asks if they could get a drink sometime, and she says why don’t we be friends. At the end of the movie, Celie is hosting an Easter meal and he is there wearing his shiny pants. We don’t get nearly as much of their friendship here, but I did love the scenes we got. I also absolutely love Colman Domingo. He was great in the moments when he was horrible to Celie, but also so perfect in the end when he has changed his ways.

We may not see their friendship and close they become through the conversations we read about in the book, but the movie does do a great job showing how he truly does have a change of heart and wants to be a better person and becomes a good friend to Celie.

Sofia

In the movie, when Sofia is with her second husband, the mayor’s wife sees her and asks her if she would like to be her maid. When Sofia says hell no, the mayor slaps her. Sofia doesn’t take crap from anyone, so she hits him back and this gets her put in jail. She is in jail for six years, and Celie visits every week. Before then being taken out to become a maid for the mayor’s wife while she gets back on her feet.

In the book, Sofia is dying in jail so Celie and all of them get the city officials to have her be the mayor’s wife maid and fill out her sentence that way instead. They know Sofia will hate it, but at least she won’t die. So she works for the mayor’s family for a really long time. She can’t see her family though and goes years inbetween visits.

Eventually, the daughter Sofia helped raise grows up and she likes Sofia and when she has a baby will bring him by Sofia’s house. The daughter is trying to get Sofia to say that she loves Reynold Stanley, her son. Sofia doges the question before finally saying, “I got my own troubles, say Sofia, and when Reynolds Stanley grow up, he’s gon be one of them. But he won’t, say Miss Eleanor Jane. I’m his mama and I won’t let him be mean to colored. You and whose army? say Sofia. The first word he likely to speak won’t be nothing he learn from you. You telling me I won’t even be able to love my own son, say Miss Eleanor Jane. No, say Sofia. That’s not what I’m telling you. I’m telling you I won’t be able to love your own son. You can love him just as much as you want to. But be ready to suffer the consequences. That’s how the colored live.”

The daughter is hurt, but later finally asks her mom why Sofia started working for them in the first place. She then wants to make things right because she truly does love Sofia, and so she starts working for Sofia and helping her out.

I think what happens to Sofia is the hardest part of this story for me in a lot of ways. Celie goes through so much abuse which is horrible, but her character arc has a steady increase over the story. To see Sofia, who is so strong and full of life and just so incredible, then get beaten down and lose that spark is so gut wrenching-in book and both movies. The scene in this movie when she laughs at the dinner table when Celie is calling out Mister, then begins to cry and thanks Celie for visiting her while she was in jail was so incredibly powerful. That part had be crying in the theater. I was also crying when Albert comes to buy the pants. But that was in part because I was thinking of their whole relationship in the book and what this reconciliation leads to.

Nettie

As I said of the original movie, I was disappointed not to see anything really of Nettie’s life. We see their childhood together and I loved this section. I remember with the first movie thinking the childhood scenes went on too long but I didn’t think that with this movie.

But in the book, we hear so much about Nettie and she is as well developed a character as the rest! There is also a scene when they get a letter saying Nettie died (turned out to be false of course) but when I read that part I was gutted. But thankfully that wasn’t hte case and she is reunited with Celie in the end.

In the book by the way, when Nettie leaves, Celie tells her to go to see the reverends wife. While in town, Celie had seen a woman with a daughter who Celie though looked like her baby her father took from her. She and the woman talk, and she is very friendly and has money. So when Nettie leaves, this is how she ends up with Celie’s children. In the movie it is just coincidence.

But yeah, we get so little from Nettie. I think this book needs yet another adaptation, but this time a miniseries, that way each character and relationship can be as well developed as they are in the book!

God and beauty

The movie has the scene when Shug talks about her idea of God and how God loves to be admired and noticed. The famous line from book and movie, “I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.”

We get this in the new movie, but it felt like we could have dwelled on it more. It also could have been turned into a whole beautiful song! So it seems like a biut of a wasted opportunity.

For those who haven’t watched my first video and aren’t interested in watching it, I am going to reshare my section when I talk about God in the book because it really is beautiful. The book starts with Celie writing letters to God, but once she knows Nettie is alive, she starts writing to her instead of God. In the book we hear about the Christian missionaries’ beliefs, as well as the religion of the Olinka who have a Roofleaf they honor. And Celie starts the book with the standard idea of God, but both Celie and Nettie change how they see God as the book goes on. They see God as something that can be found all around us and is in the beauty of nature and human kindness. There is a line where Shug is talking to Celie about God saying,

“Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.
You saying God vain? I ast.
Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
What it do when it pissed off? I ast.
Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

I love that in a book with so much sadness and heavy topics, there is also so much beauty. And despite bad things that happen, the belief that God wants to please us and when we don’t notice the things meant to please us, God tries again to get our attention with something else beautiful.

I love the idea of God being nature as well. In the forward written by Walker in 2006 she says of her ancestors, “They would have realized that, in essence, the one God/Goddess that proved sturdy enough to be in Africa with them, on the slave ship, and also with them in Mississippi and New York, was Nature.”

She also talks about Celie’s suffering as being critical to her spiritual awakening and she says, “More than thirty years later, it still puzzles me that The Color Purple is so infrequently discussed as a book about God. About “God” versus “the God image.” After all, the protagonist Celie’s first words are “Dear God.”  Everything that happens during her life, spanning decades, is in relation to her growth in understanding this force. I remember attempting to explain the necessity of her trials and tribulations to a skeptical fan. We grow in our understanding of what “God/Goddess” means and is by the intensity of our suffering, and what we are able  to make of it, I said. As far as I can tell, I added… And though we may be confused, even traumatized, as Celie is, by their historical, social, and psychological configuration, if we persevere we may, like her, eventually settle into amazement: that by some unfathomable  kindness we have received just the right keys we need to unlock the deepest, darkest dungeons of our emotional and spiritual bondage, and to experience our much longed for liberation and peace.”

At a later point in the book Nettie writes, “God is different to us now, after all these years in Africa. More spirit than ever before, and more internal. Most  people think he has to look like something or someone—a roofleaf or Christ—but we don’t. And not being tied to what God looks like, frees us.”

Youth

The last paragraph in the book is also really wonderful so I wanted to share it, “I feel a little peculiar round the children. For one thing, they grown. And I see they think me and Nettie and Shug and Albert and Samuel and Harpo and Sofia and Jack and Odessa real old and don’t know much what going on. But I don’t think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.”

This is in the movie in the final song, Celie and Nettie sing this last part about them feeling the youngest they have every been. I love this so much too. We are never “past our prime”. So many of these characters don’t become the best version of themselves till they are in the second half of their life. I just love the message of how it is never too late to change and when you are living the life you truly want and are at peace with who you are and your relationships-that is the key to being fulfilled and happy and that joy is what makes you feel “young”.

Book vs movie

As fas as this movie compared with the original, I would say I preferred this movie. I may be biased because I love musicals, plus I saw this in theaters whereas I saw the other one at home. I also knew going into this that it would be leaving a lot from the book out in terms of Nettie. So basically I am saying I prefer this over the 80’s movie, but it is probably an unfair judgement for multiple reasons.

Regardless, when it comes to book vs movie, the book wins over both adaptations. With the 2023 movie in particular, I think they could have just taken out the stuff with Shug and her dad and added more of Shug and Celie or Albert and Celie, or Nettie’s life. Though Nettie’s story would require more time. But I would have loved to watch a three-hour version of this that included her time in Africa! We have had so many long movies this year, I wish this had also been one of those three hour long epics!

I would still highly recommend the movie, and I of course highly recommend the book!