The Color Purple (1985)

I expected this to be uneven - great as they are, all Spielberg's dramas are uneven - and for the first two-thirds of the film I wasn't quite sure where it was going. But l'il Steven finally lets slip with a kind of operatic melodrama, balanced by gentle hands between Dickensian epic and magic-realist parable, with some beautifully orchestrated sequences. Spielberg was much derided for not showing Cellie and Shug's lesbian relationship, and that's a key piece of cowardice, but in some ways it's utterly trivial in a film that so effectively presents human companionship as a life force. Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey surprisingly good - certainly better than they've been since - but I admire Danny Glover's turn most, since he has the hardest part, having to be alternatively monstrous, boyish, foolish, charming.

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