Cheers, gasps greet Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” at advance screening

Lionsgate and Atlanta director Tyler Perry were taking no chances at Wednesday night’s advance screening of “For Colored Girls” at Atlantic Station.
Before being allowed inside, each member of the capacity crowd was required to surrender their cell phone along with their driver’s license where they were placed together inside a plastic bag.
With all the modern technology currently available on smart phones, the filmmakers clearly don’t want “For Colored Girls” to end up on the Internet before it hits the big screen Friday.
Inside, each member of the audience was given a mini pack of “For Colored Girls” tissues on the way in. Trust us, if you have a heart beating in your chest, you’ll need them over the next two hours.
Based on Ntozake Shange‘s ground-breaking series of poems that became a successful Broadway play in the mid-1970s, Perry had the unenviable task of transforming 20 separate works into a narrative screenplay for his all-star cast.
Shange purists will no doubt come away dissatisfied that some poems have been edited, tweaked or omitted entirely. But for those who either haven’t encountered these powerful works in book form in a Womens’ Studies class or on stage in one of the many successful theatrical productions of “For Colored Girls,” the words will be a revelation.
At Wednesday night’s screening, we caught ourselves smiling when one of our favorite acting forces of nature, Loretta Devine opens the film lugging a houseplant and delivering a rousing rendition of Shange’s poem “No Assistance.”
A word of warning: Perry’s traditional church-going audience needs to be aware that his new film is rated R and it is a hard R to be sure. There is nudity, the four-letter words fly, graphic, despicable acts are committed and ladies, after one breath-taking, heart-breaking and gut-wrenching turn of events, you may never fantasize about heartthrob actor Michael Ealy the same way again.
Whether you love or hate Tyler Perry’s popular brand of filmmaking, the work being done here by Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Devine, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Whoopi Goldberg, Macy Gray, Ealy, Omari Hardwick, Richard Lawson, Hill Harper and Khalil Kain is powerful, emotionally raw, thought-provoking and utterly brave.
In other words, girlfriends (and dare we suggest a few brave men) will want to schedule time for coffee, dinner or drinks after you see “For Colored Girls” when it opens Friday. There’s lots to discuss. And consider picking up a copy of Shange’s original “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” (Simon & Schuster, $9.95) if you haven’t yet acquianted yourself with the source material.
And keep those tissues handy.