I was not part of the contingent that thought the movie Precious was an outright disgrace, embarrassment, and slap in the face to Black people. I had read the book Push, by Sapphire—which the movie Precious is based on—and the book, to me, was about as unsettling as anything that I had ever read.
So when the movie came out, I was actually a bit relieved. I thought Lee Daniels (who I’m usually not a super-fan of) did an excellent job and I gave the movie about a 7 on a scale of 1-10 mostly because I was blown away by the acting.
Learning that star Gabourey Sidibe is some geeky little schoolgirl and not the simultaneously menacing bully and molestation victim that she played onscreen was a revelation.
Mariah Carey was downright ugly, yet somehow, strangely sexier.
Lenny Kravitz was amazing, non-glam rock and all.
Paula Patton was solid if a little everyday chic to be a special education teacher in Harlem.
And the girls that played Precious’ classmates were all cute enough, weird enough or interesting enough to make the film work.
So to watch Mo’Nique play ‘Mary’, a woman so self-absorbed that she considers her daughter’s rape to be an affront to her own sovereignty, was incredible. She threw a baby on the floor in one scene! In another, she forced her own daughter to do the sexually unthinkable.
Sometimes we Black people can get in a huff about depictions of ourselves that we consider to be less than favorable as if it was our low Q Rating that caused the transatlantic slave trade.
I’m one of those people that believe that once an actor or an actress wins an Oscar, it forces film fans to take a re-enhanced view of all of that actor or actor’s previous film work.
So now, as with what Jamie Foxx’s Oscar win did for Booty Call and what Halle Berry’s Oscar win did for B.A.P.S., Mo’Nique’s win calls for a critical reexamination of both Phat Girlz and Soul Plane.
All kidding aside, there has simply not been a better acting performance in a number of years than Mo’Nique’s work in Precious.