Is This As Good As It Gets for Mo’Nique and Gabourey?

Enjoy it now, Mo'Nique.  It may not get any better than this.

Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe don’t need my career advice.    If they were to ask me for it though, I’d tell them this:  enjoy the ride.  It won’t last.

The cold hard truth is there isn’t a lot of roles in Hollywood for plus-sized sistas.  Mo’Nique  and Gabourey are not going to have a career like Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock.   The movie industry is extremely harsh on women.  Ask Kathleen Turner.   Ask Angela Bassett.  Get a little older, don’t apply Botox to chase away the wrinkles and when gravity begins to take its toll, you’re scrambling for jobs on television, slob comedies and Tyler Perry schlock fests.   Plus-sized women catch hell when they’re White.   It gets no easier when you throw so color in the mix.

Mo’Nique’s Best Supporting Actress made her the fourth  Black woman to win the award, joining Hattie McDaniel, Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson.  Halle Berry took the little gold man home as Best Actress in Monster’s Ball, a movie widely despised by every Black person I’ve ever spoken to who’s seen it.   Not to say there aren’t Black people who love the movie.  I’ve just never met any that have.

Jennifer Hudson hasn’t made enough films to be included to determine what type of career she may have.   She apparently has dropped 60 pounds to play Winnie Mandela in a bio flick so good for her.   It’s just unfortunate actresses have to hire personal trainers and diet like mad in order to pursue a livelihood.   There’s the way the world should be and the way the world is and it doesn’t look to be changing around in favor of the fat folks anytime soon.

The funny thing about winning an Oscar is how it’s no guarantee of better scripts and better roles.   Mo’Nique has no new projects lined up.  Maybe she’s choosy and wants to do something special instead of another Martin Lawrence comedy.   Then again, maybe the silence is based on the fact that the phone just isn’t ringing for her.

There's what you deserve and there's what you get.

Whoopi won her Oscar in 1990 after being nominated for Best Actress for The Color Purple (1985).   Whoopi and Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Angelica Huston all had to sit and applaud as eight-time nominee Geraldine Page won for  The Trip to Bountiful.   Proving yet again the Academy Awards are about sentimentality as much as they are about quality.

Halle Berry’s career is a cautionary tale on how to completely squander your post-Oscar hotness.   Take on projects that either cater to your vanity (Perfect Stranger),  are supposed to show off your acting chops but nobody bothers to go see it (Things We Lost in the Fire, Gothika) or total stinkers  (Die Another Day, Catwoman).   Berry’s last movie, Frankie and Alice  where she plays a women with multiple personality disorder (one which is a raving racist) wrapped in January 2009 but has yet to be released.   Not a good sign for Berry’s continued status as an A-list star.

When Howard Stern ripped into Sidibe saying,  “There’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen. Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business and she’s never going to be in another movie,”  he was being the same dick he’s always been.  Yet despite being wrong about Sidibe’s post-Precious film prospects (her next movie is Yelling to the Sky ), Stern isn’t completely off-base.

Precious is the little movie that could and Sidibe has benefited from the enormous good will it has engendered.   It seems though while everyone is cheering her performance, we’re supposed to act as if Gabourey Sidibe isn’t obese and her weight will definitely limit the roles available to her.

I’m the last guy to bash anyone over their weight, but the fact is fat is funny to Hollywood producers.  Would Eddie Murphy have a career anymore  if he didn’t have his fat suit flicks (The Nutty Professor, Norbit) that cater to wringing cheap laughs from morbid obesity?

Only White guys get away with looking like beached whales in Hollywood.  Jack Nicholson was a big star.  Now he’s just big.  Marlon Brando ate his way to mammoth proportions.  Jack Black and Philip Seymour Hoffman are far from hardbodies

Sidibe says “People look at me and don’t expect much.  I expect a lot.”

Black actresses toil in a business obsessed with image, celebrates gaunt skeletal women with enormous boobs on rail-thin bodies.   Good looks are not enough.   Acting chops are not enough.   Being in exactly the right place at the right time under the right set of circumstances won accolades and awards for Mo’Nique and Sidibe.   It isn’t enough to sustain a career.

It’s great that Gabourey Sidibe is comfortable in her own skin.   I’m skeptical if fat acceptance extends to the production offices of Hollywood studios.

Gabourey Sidibe has talent, but is that enough for image obsessed Hollywood?

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“Precious” (or what in the world could make me want to see a movie with Mo’nique?)

Is there a place in the world (or Hollywood) for a 300-lb, pregnant Black teenager with dreams?

Is there a place in the world (or Hollywood) for a 300-lb, pregnant Black teenager with dreams?

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.

The movie is called Precious, based on the book “Push” by the writer Sapphire.   Here is a synopsis from Indie Wire:

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.

L-R: Mariah Carey, Gabourey Sidibe, Lee Daniels, Monique, Paula Patton

L-R: Mariah Carey, Gabourey Sidibe, Lee Daniels, Mo'nique, Paula Patton

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.”