Anybody whose had the opportunity to talk cinema with me over the last couple of months know I’m not a big fan of the movie Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. I don’t hate the movie but I do have some issues with a bit of the flick’s intention, production and execution––beginning way before the opening credits. My largest gripe stems from the casting. I think for an African-American director––who must be aware of the historical misrepresentation of Blacks in Hollywood as well as the scarce roles accessible to his race––to have each “negative” character played by an actor of darker skin and every positive character be of fairer skin is extremely irresponsible. Now I’ve read my share of “interesting” quotes from Lee Daniels and have heard even crazier things, but this supposed imbalance of complexion appears far too blatant to be excused as a faux pas.
Think about the cast. Team positive: the beautiful and angelic teacher (Paula Patton); social worker (Mariah Carey); even the male nurse––caring and handsome enough to leave Sherri Shephard’s character speechless (Lenny Kravitz). Then there’s Team Negative: Precious the victim. Her father the faceless yet very pigmented boogieman. Her despicable mother portrayed by Mo’Nique. Possibly even more criminal is that I’ve heard in the novel Push (I never read it) those positive characters aren’t of fairer skin. Hollywood strikes again?
Once more, I wanna be clear that I’m not a hater of the movie Precious…; just not a huge fan. But when Mo’Nique began receiving immense praise for her performance, I became a hater. Now she’s nominated for the grandest trophy in cinema. I don’t get it. I do feel she gave a quality performance but I didn’t see her sadistic mother portrayal as such a stretch. The role in its essence was of an angry black woman. Is it so difficult to picture Mo’Nique angry, mean and loud? She launched her fame off of those characteristics. Hell, her initial stand-up routine and book (Skinny Women Are Evil) expressed hate towards women who weren’t fat (she’s looking slimmer than ever these days! Will she become self-loathing?).
Aside from that single Precious… scene in the social worker’s office, where Mo’Nique gave us a look at her emotional range, I don’t see how you put her in the same league as Tilda Swinton or Penelope Cruz. The aforementioned actresses took home the last two supporting actress Oscars and deserved ‘em unquestionably. Three years ago Tilda Swinton tucked away her British accent, docile persona and a bit of her age to give George Clooney his morally callous nemesis in the superb Michael Clayton. The following year Penelope Cruz gave us a tornado of Latin fire as Javier Bardem’s violently passionate lover. Both actresses work: grade A. Why? You saw neither actress in those movies, just their character.
So if Mo’Nique’s Precious… performance is Oscar worthy than so was DMX’s in Belly. Both played exaggerated characters…of themselves.
Bonsu Thompson has accomplished more in his career than most journalists dream of. The Rolling Stone 2001 “Hot Interviewer” has penned for mags like Details, XXL, Penthouse, SLAM and KING as well as notable brands such as MTV, VH1, Rocawear and Translation.