This weekend, audiences will get their first shot at checking out shoe-in Oscar contender "Precious," director Lee Daniels' adaptation of the book "Push: A Novel," by Sapphire. I checked it out at Sundance in January. To say that I "loved it" isn't quite accurate; it's a challenging film, with lots of craft behind a wholly depressing and frequently horrifying story. It deserves the accolades it's getting, but it's not the kind of movie you really fall in love with.
That said, there are some stellar performances. I thought the real standout was Mo'Nique, who plays the abusive mother of the protagonist, teenage pregnant girl Precious (Gabourey Sidibe). Sidibe has also been getting plenty of praise (the word "Oscar" keeps popping up in reference to her), as has pop icon Mariah Carey, who plays a small but vital role as a social worker. MTV reporter Akshay Bhansali recently caught up with Sapphire and Paula Patton (she plays a teacher at a progressive school in the film), and they were more than happy to talk about Carey's and Sidibe's contributions.
"I didn't have the pleasure to work with [Carey], but watching her work, I was beyond impressed" Patton said. "She just becomes invisible. The Mariah as an icon, it just fades away as you watch the film. And it's really awesome, because i think that our director Lee Daniels... was able to get at her humanity and pull out this beautiful essence of her, and you see it in the film. She did an incredible job."
Sapphire was so drawn in by Carey's performance, she didn't even notice her scenes as they happened. "I remember when I heard she was going to be in the film and I didn't know what to think. And then I went to the first screening. The film ended and I remember thinking 'Oh, she's not in it, she didn't make it.' I didn't recognize her! My agent was sitting there with me, and he said 'That was Mariah?'"
"So she literally disappears," the author continued. "The singer disappears, and she becomes what an actress has to become, almost a blank slate so another soul can come out. And she does it."
Of course, Carey's role is relatively small. The real star is Sidibe, and the women spare no praise for her. "She deserves [the Oscar attention]," Patton said. "She always should've been someone that they spoke about. I think now that people are learning who she truly is and realizing how far she came to play that role-- she changed the way she walked, the way she talked, just everything about her. She changed into this person, because that's not who Gabby really is. She's a true actress. She's a prodigy, so she deserves it."