The Color Purple (Spielberg, 1985)

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The Color Purple pulls the viewer’s heartstrings more than any of Spielberg’s films. For better or worse, every single frame is dedicated to producing an emotional reaction toward the material. It’s lucidly paced, wonderfully shot, and meticulously constructed, yet all of this plays deeply into the emotional output of the story. Unlike the director’s later epics (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), The Color Purple feels surprisingly contained, linked to a singular journey toward personal awakening. While all the performances have high points, the film is anchored by Whoopi Goldberg’s standout turn as Celie, a character whose somber face shows the pain and suffering shared by all the women in the film. Sure, the film builds to a standard Spielberg happy ending, but it still feels rightfully deserved.

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