The Color Purple ★★★★

Proving he could be more than a blockbuster darling, Spielberg at the time was at his dramatic best with The Color Purple. Taking material that could have easily boiled down to stereotyping, Spielberg treated the story with tremendous sensitivity, bringing an almost stage play-like quality to the film, as it brought us through the heartbreaks and triumphs spread across thirty years, part coming-of-age, part American tableau, creating an affecting journey for one woman's desire for self-worth and love. Perhaps glossing over some deeper reflection on racial diminishing of the era, this does allow Spielberg a more narrow focus on the harrowing, and sometimes ugly tribulations closer to home, tackling those universal issues of abuse both of violence and of belittlement, a common theme tracing back to that desire to find one's meaning, and self-love in a world continually beating it down. Alas, it isn't all perfect, especially with how extended the film feels. This would usher in one of Spielberg's more pressing vices, that being his habit of stretching his films out just that tad bit too long, as there's plenty of room for him to tighten up the sometimes sluggish movement. But making that length bearable are an assembly of fantastic performances, from Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Oprah, and a phenomenal debut in Whoopi Goldberg's vulnerable, but progressively commanding starring role. It certainly gets sentimental at times, but it's still just lovely.