BACK in 1985, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple marked something of a major turning point in the budding careers of two little known rising stars. One would go on to become a powerhouse, multi-award winning star of stage and screen. The other would gain fame as the world’s most successful and well known talk show host.

While it was Whoopi Goldberg who won big at the Oscars for her work in the film, it is Oprah Winfrey’s dedication to the source that has had the longest impact. In 2005, Winfrey co-produced the film’s rampantly successful transfer to Broadway. Two decades on, it is she who has spearheaded the new film adaptation that arrives in cinemas this week.

Directed by Ghanaian filmmaker and rap artist Blitz Bazawule, with a script from post-black playwright Marcus Gardley, 2024’s Colour Purple is, like the stage show, a musical. Songs have been lifted from both Broadway and Spielberg’s original adaptation, with complementary additions from the likes of Mary J Blige, Alicia Keys and Missy Elliot.

Fantasia Barrino leads as Celie Harris-Johnson - the Goldberg role - the film’s life-hardened heroine. Torn from her sister and children, Celie’s woes are equalled only by the inner strength and resolve upon which she must draw as she navigates a world pitted against her.

It’s a dark tale, racially and socially complex, albeit less so than Walker’s original and even the Spielberg film. Certainly, it would be a fair critique to levy that Bazawule’s feels rather cleaner and more sanitised than the subject warrants.

Nonetheless, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks and Colman Domingo make for a strong cast ensemble, while The Little Mermaid’s Halle Bailey impresses on dry land as Nettie. Watch too for a very familiar face in a brief cameo as Celie’s midwife.

Though more monumental in tone - call it the Broadway effect - Bazawule‘s film seems unlikely to enjoy quite the same impact as Spielberg’s. A warm reception Stateside has not, for instance, negated a less than spectacular run at the US box office.

Perhaps The Colour Purple will fare better this side of the Atlantic? Perhaps it will fall fowl of the streaming age. Three week’s after release, you can already rent the film at home in America. Barrino and Brooks are terrific but this won’t be their Goldberg/Winfrey year.