When people who have seen Precious are shocked to discover that the film's star, Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, is not actually her character, is that a compliment? Or an insult?
There's a story about Sidibe in the new issue of New York magazine, and the piece makes the point that Sidibe is not her character. Again.
Earlier this month, W's Kevin West wrote that "Sidibe's screen debut is so painfully detailed that, as Mo'Nique points out, it can sometimes feel like a real person living her life in front of a documentary camera."
Of course, the movie is not a documentary. But Sidibe is having to deal with people thinking that she is Clareece "Precious" Jones anyway.
New York's Tim Murphy reveals an exchange that takes place at the photo shoot:
One woman in the retinue, meeting her for the first time, gushes, "You look totally opposite to your character."
"Thanks," says Sidibe dutifully. "I'm actually … not her."
Murphy then writes: "The confusion is understandable if you've seen the film in which Sidibe stars."
Admittedly, I haven't seen the movie. But those who have knew they were not seeing a documentary, right? It's meant as a testament to Sidibe's superb acting that people are confused, but there's something upsetting about being unable to accept that an overweight black woman is just acting miserable. It's as though people think Sidibe — because of what she looks like — must be damaged in some way. (According to this NPR story, the ones who really relate to the Precious character are Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry.)
According to Tim Murphy's piece, director Lee Daniels says: "Sidibe grew to be herself by the end of the movie. Not even herself, but a fraction of herself. To play Precious, she had to unwork all her confidence, and speak lower, slower, and gutturally. Only in the fantasy sequences" — when Precious dissociates from rape and abuse by thinking about runways and red carpets — "do you see who Sidibe is, bubbly and giggly."
Sidibe is well aware of how she's been perceived … and portrayed in the press: "They try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I'm awesome," she tells Murphy. "But the truth is that I've been awesome, and then I got this role."
[Photo by Andreas Laszlo Konrath for New York.]