This post is especially for Stinkylulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown - The Class of 2010, which reaches its 5th year of existence and long may it continue.
While watching Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” (Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enough) it’s impossible not to marvel at the film’s excellent assemblage of actresses. Whether it’s the legendary attitude of Whoopi Goldberg, the showy tendencies of Thandie Newton, the stern wisdom of Phylicia Rashad, the continually undervalued talent of Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington and Kimberley Elise, or the welcome contribution of relative newcomers Tessa Thompson and Macy Gray, everybody has a hand in carrying the novel’s wrenching emotion into a powerful cinematic experience.
I have decided to focus on the performance which most affected me, and which sidesteps the constraints of heavy-handed plot elements with enviable ease:
*Warning: There are plot spoilers*
Anika Noni Rose is Yasmine (aka Yellow), a cool lady who teaches one of the film’s other “Colored girls” to dance, at an uptown college. She immediately strikes you as one of these people with an easy-going outlook on life, not especially well-off but by no means poor. As she helps Nyla (aka Purple) deal with her own problems she gives the impression that she recognises herself at that age, passionate and rash, and the way that she deals with Nyla reinforces the sense that she’s giving something back to an art that fostered her creative freedom. Yasmine feels completely content to live as she is, prioritising personal happiness over accumulative gain, missing love in her life for sure, but otherwise together, and proud that she has managed to acquit herself in a vocation that she loves.
We meet Yasmine’s suitor Bill as he chases after her one afternoon like a lost puppy, charming and cheeky, plying her with attention as they discuss the possibility of a date. Yasmine feels reluctant at first, and, even though she is a very attractive woman, reveals a possible lack of experience with the dating game, and a hint of bashful self-consciousness. This scene played back might reveal an innate, instinctive tentativeness in Yasmine towards Bill, and he certainly tries too hard to woo her. One often judges a concerted effort as a form of flattery more than an act of desperation or deceit, and in any case, when he invites her to cook him dinner Rose’s coy, confident smile indicates that Yasmine knows that she can make this another one of her success stories.
In the vein of “For Colored Girls” it’s somewhat inevitable to disclose that this date does not end in success, and in the second most harrowing sequence of the film (the first is not even open to debate) Yasmine finds herself in as drastic a predicament as a woman can endure. When the camera zones in on her during this sequence Rose displays such a distraught sense of resignation, and a painful dose of self-deprecating anger at not getting this one right: she should have listened to her instincts. And it carries through to the aftermath of the event, since she's predictably noble enough to report the offence to police officers but guiltily bitter towards her assailant. As Yasmine is required to identify the man’s body later in the film Rose nails a huge confluence of emotion; her unleashing of anger at not being able to confront him on a level footing, and a faint sense of pride at justice winning out. Her attack towards him reads as a natural reaction yet somewhat fearful, as if she is wary of letting her darker emotions take over.
While you’re certain that the film’s “yellow” heroine has never seen darker days, Rose gauges Yasmine’s arc immaculately, and not so drastic as to suggest that she won’t recover. In fact, one imagines that she’ll take this event relatively on-the-chin as she does with every other element of life (she shouldn’t have to, but she will) and put on as brave a face as she always has. Rose makes Yasmine the most genuine character in “For Colored Girls” despite its clamouring sense of finality towards her strand of the narrative. Yellow is the perfect colour for this woman; reliable, resilient and good-natured, sensitive, fragile and resonant. Rose resonates more than any other single element of the film, and provides one of the most valuable and finest performances of the year.