ACTRESS Kimberly Elise had five gray hairs when she began filming "For Colored Girls."

By the time she finished, 50 more had sprouted.

Sounds plausible, since just watching the movie wore me out.

Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls," which opens Friday, is 120 minutes of melodrama as the nine co-stars cope with everything from adultery to date rape to mental illness and even the down-low epidemic.

Exiting the theater, I needed time to process all that drama. And a glass of wine, too.

I also could have used a hug. I know I've ragged on her in the past, but I would have accepted even one appearance from Madea, just for a laugh.

"For Colored Girls," inspired by Ntozake Shange's 1975 poetic play, isn't the movie to see if you're feeling fragile. But if you're in a healthy place, definitely go. Just take Kleenex and a girlfriend because you're going to want to talk it out afterward. Phylicia Rashad, Loretta Devine, Elise and Thandie Newton tear the screen up. Elise, in particular, puts on an Oscar-worthy performance in her role as a battered mother who goes to hell and back after witnessing the unthinkable. My favorite line comes near the end, when Elise's character declares, "I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely." What a lesson there is in that.

But dang, I'm a sucker for women's movies, especially ones that celebrate sisterhood and personal empowerment the way this does, but I don't know when I'll be up to wading through all of that emotion again. Maybe never.

I had a chance to sit and watch "For Colored Girls" a second time last week. But I gave my seat away and went to a restaurant and had crab tacos instead.

Even Elise, who was in town to promote the movie, sat it out instead of watching herself on the big screen.

She hasn't seen "For Colored Girls" yet and doesn't know when she will be up to watching her portrayal of Crystal, who is abused by both her boss and her lover. After filming the movie, Elise slept for four days and then embarked on a 21-day detox and resumed meditating and taking yoga classes to get centered. At the Daily News screening Thursday, Elise waited until the movie was nearly over before showing up at the Ritz East.

"It's too fresh for me still," said Elise, who's best known for her roles in "Set It Off," "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "John Q."

"I'm still on the healing end. I need to laugh more. I'm not looking to go to Crystal now. But I will . . . For me, it's the emotional journey. The tie isn't completely broken yet. I don't want to put my body back in that space," she added.

Speaking of depressing, there's only one positive black male character in the movie. Among the characters - a low-down dirty sometime boyfriend, a low-down dirty husband on the down- low, and a low-down dirty rapist. Perry took great liberties with Shange's script, so I wish he could have added in a few good men. For that matter, I wish he'd added an Everywoman character, someone not emotionally ravaged and waiting for a sit-down on Oprah's couch.

Perry cleverly incorporates 14 of Shange's poems to create the narrative. Although I never saw the play, I remember bits and pieces of the poetry, such as the one in which a woman announces "I am ending this affair" and gives her lover back a plant she's been "watering since the day I met you" and tells him to water it his "damn self." Perry does a respectable job weaving all that in.

There's a little levity in "For Colored Girls," but mostly heartache as the characters cry, rage and suffer but ultimately find solace in each other, and hallelujah for that. Otherwise, this movie could easily be titled "For Colored Girls Who Tyler Perry Pushed to Suicide When the Movie Didn't End Soon Enough."