If you were to see the black, morbidly obese 16-year-old girl wearing clothes far too tight for her girth who’s the movie’s title character, you’d probably either try to avoid looking at her or just walk on by, pausing only for a brief glance of disdain. I’m sure that’s what casting directors Billy Hopkins and Jessica Kelly were shooting for and accomplished when they chose newcomer Gabourey Sidibe for this role. Their choice is more than justified by the novice actress’s portrayal of a victimized, illiterate young woman whose outward belligerence masks the shame of bearing a second child conceived in a rape by her normally absent father. Why such a person would pique the interest of an alternative school teacher (Paula Patton) and a social worker (Mariah Carey) who must come in contact with hundreds of similarly troubled people remains a mystery that’s never really addressed except for Patton’s (SWING VOTE) rather trite “I like to teach” remark. I could have done without the jump edits that distracted from the overall production, and the segues from one scene to another weren’t always skillfully handled. These weaknesses, though don't detract from a performance-driven film where the ensemble cast never fails to deliver the goods. Sidibe really understands this character even though she’s 10 years older in real life. As the chain-smoking, verbally abusive mother from hell, comedian Mo’Nique (WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS) is a lead-pipe cinch for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination since her character adeptly ranges from being hateful and totally unlikeable to an ultimately tragic figure. It occurred to me that any racist who sees this work might have their negative attitudes about black people reinforced even though the executive producers are Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. The reality is that it’s a good film which leaves you with the idea that even the most hopeless life can be redeemed.
EXCELLENT MOVIES TO WATCH IF YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION IS …
…TO BE A BETTER PERSON: THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959), MILLIONS (2005), SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
…TO CUT DOWN/QUIT DRINKING: CLEAN AND SOBER (1988), DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962), THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)
…TO GET IN SHAPE/LOSE WEIGHT: CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981), ROCKY (1976), SUPER SIZE ME (2004)
…TO QUIT SMOKING: COLD TURKEY (1971), THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (2006)