Anyone that knows me knows two things about me: I’m pretty much indifferent about anything the name of Tyler Perry is attached to and if you want to unleash a flood of negative and nasty cracks expose to anything featuring the “comedian” known as Mo’nique.
Life has gone on quite nicely with me never having watched any of Perry’s plays, movies or television shows. Mo’nique with her way over the top persona, “I hate skinny bitches” rap just seems to wallow in this bizarre “I’m big, loud, fat and fabulous” persona that wears on me like nails dragging across a blackboard.
I don’t begrudge her or Perry for their success. They’re certainly entitled to do what they have to do to get paid, but I always vowed it would be a cold day in hell before either one of them ever saw a dime of my hard-earned party money. Madea meets Mo’nique? Wow. Not my idea of a good time.
So why do I find myself looking forward to seeing a movie produced by Perry and starring Mo’nique?
Because when a small independent film is produced by Perry and Oprah Winfrey, wins the Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival and is generating buzz for a Oscar-worthy performance by Mo’nique, it’s a sure sign we’re officially not in Stereotypical Negro Land any more.
Lee Daniels’ “Push” is based on the novel by Sapphire. It is described by the Sundance catalog as the story of “Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child—for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat. Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources.”
The movie’s title was changed from “Push” to “Precious” to avoid confusion with Push, a forgettable CGI action flick that came and went without a trace earlier this year. Despite winning the Grand Prize at Sundance and Mo’nique’s harrowing performance as the abusive mother of Precious won a best supporting actress recognition by the festival Grand Jury , the film was not picked up by a distributor until a few weeks later.
The question is will audiences come out to support a dark story about a 300-lb illiterate Black girl who isn’t pretty or light-skinned? Daniels, a first-time, untrained director not only chose an unconventional story with an unsual central character, in Mo’nique he took someone most known for playing variations of herself on screen, added musicians in supporting roles (a de-glammed Mariah Carey as a social worker and Lenny Kravitz as a nurse) wtih a few genuine actors (Paula Patton and The View’s Sherri Shepherd).
Those of us who sit down in the dark to watch a movie and experience something more than sensory overload from popcorn entertainment filled with computer generated special effects and explosions often complain (okay, we whine a bit too) over the lack of intelligent stories and “real” characters that tug our heart strings and make us think instead of merely being bludgeoned into submission by sensory overload.
To put it another way, if we don’t support serious filmmakers we’re doomed to a steady diet of Transformers, GI Joe and other schlock.
I’m not a fan of Mo’nique, but I am a fan of solid acting and if she is as good in Precious as advertised, I’m going to have to put aside my prejudices and preconceptions for a while and support a little movie that seems to be brimming with the potential to be something special.
Precious opens in November 2009. Just in time for Academy Award consideration. Which means don’t be shocked if next February you hear the words “The Academy Award for the best supporting acting performance in a film goes to…Mo’nique in Precious.”