Far better suited to its East Village coffee house origins, playwright/poet Ntozake Shange's 1975 play gets a histrionic, pedestrian movie treatment from director-screenwriter-producer Tyler Perry. Nine Harlem women bound by color and their wicked men take turns overemoting and monologuing—"Being colored is a metaphysical dilemma I haven't conquered yet" is one of the more cogent lines. The aim of grappling with the everyday travails of African-American women is undercut by Perry's hyper-reality in which every
man is a philanderer, rapist, murderer, pedophile and/or HIV-positive closeted homosexual. Meanwhile, the women left in their wake—portrayed here by Thandie Newton, Loretta Devine, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, Tessa Thompson and Phylicia Rashad—are conventional cutouts designed to further Perry's moralizing, female-centric viewpoint, but ill-equipped to bridge Shange's poetry and Perry's prosaic prose. Anyone waiting to exhale shouldn't hold their breath.