Admittedly, I didn’t see “Precious” when it was initially released.
Like many of my peers, I “thought”I just didn’t want to see that aspect of African-American life portrayed and played out on the big screen.
It was a struggle because I am a big fan of Lee Daniels, the film’s director.
A native Philadelphian and a fellow Capricorn, in my opinion, Daniels is the new Black
Never one to shy away from controversial topics or subject matter, Daniels produced the 2002 Academy-Award nominated “Monster’s Ball,” which, by the way, also garnered Halle Berry the coveted Best Actress Oscar.
He also directed “The Woodsman” with Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and Mos Def in 2004.
However the Daniels-directed film that grabbed my attention and really made me sit up and pay attention is the 2005 release, “The Shadowboxer.” “The Shadowboxer” stars Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Macy Gray and Mo’Nique. Hold that thought.
Call it short sightedness. Even though I am a fan, I never thought of Mo’Nique as a serious actress. Maybe I saw too many episodes of “The Parker’s” – (remember “Nikki?”), “Showtime at the Apollo,” “Flavor of Love – Charm School.” Then there are the other film — “Soul Plane,” “Hair Show” and “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.” Unfortunately these films only showed one side of this very talented woman, the one we all know well – the comic.
Back to “the Shadowboxer…”
The film is a wild rollercoaster ride covering everything from organized crime to drug trafficking and murder.
When Helen Mirren introduced the film “Precious” tonight at the Golden Globes, she referred to Daniel’s direction as “raw poetry.” That is an aptly eloquent way to describe the talented brother’s directorial gifts.
Ironically, Mo’Nique’s character in “the Shadowboxer” is named Precious. Really.
This Precious is a crack-addicted nurse. Her performance in “the Shadowboxer” gave hints that this woman is, in fact, a serious actress…a very serious actress. The range of emotions that she demonstrated took me on a journey. I read an interview when “the Shadowboxer” was released, where Mo’Nique said that when she started filming Lee Daniels told her, ‘If you make me laugh, you won’t have a job…” This serious actress took her director’s words seriously and delivered a gut-wrenching, no-holds barred portrayal. One couldn’t help believe what she conveyed not only with dialogue, but her body language and the simplest gestures – a pleading look in her eyes that brought this man to tears.
So, when I finally did see the motion picture, “Precious,” I was not surprised by Mo’Nique’s performance. Not only did she, again, explore a wide range of emotions, she brought to life an abusive and abused character, one that we’ve all encountered before. While we may not know her, we’ve know people who envelope aspects of her persona. The magic is that she did it with authenticity and verve. Her performance is a journey. One that not only takes the viewer to dark places, but just when you think she can’t go any further, she does…again and again.
So far Mo’Nique’s performamce in the film Precious has won The Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, The Golden Globe (Best Supporting Actress) and a mountain of film festival acknowledgments. Could the Oscar be far behind? Academy Award nominations are announced February 2nd.
…and I would be remiss if i didn’t mention Gabourey Sidibe’s performace as “Precious.” The dynamic that exists between her character and the one played by Mo’Nique is magical. They are engaged in a war of the heart, where love, betrayal, pain, manipulation and control are the primary weapons. Sidibe’s performance is an understated portrait of restraint and dignity under fire.
I have now seen “Precious,” the film, twice. Despite the subject matter, which is very disturbing, there is a subtle underlying optimism and hope that makes it one of the year’s best. Despite the odds, the human spirit triumphs.
Since this was published Mo’Nique also garnered the SAG Award- (Screen Actor’s Guild) for Best Supporting Actress.