Mariah Carey is clearly well-versed in Oscar strategy. Or, at least, one strategy in particular: the “uglying-up” route that has won kudos for multiple attractive actresses (Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard et al) “brave” enough to shed makeup and/or don prosthetics for their art.
I say this because Carey currently seems to be telling anyone who will listen about the makeunder she endured for her extended cameo in “Precious.” To the New York Times, she recently gushed, “People say to me, ‘You’re so ugly in this movie,’ and I take that as a compliment,” before revealing how Lee Daniels ordered her to remove her blush. (Quelle horreur!)
Meanwhile, she tells Us Magazine that she “drank some ugly juice” to achieve her level of “hideousness” in the movie. And in case we hadn’t got the idea, she reiterates in an interview in today’s LA Times that she’s unable to so much as look at her “hideosity” on screen.
Is it just me, or is she rather over-egging the pudding here? Carey’s appearance in “Precious” is commendably natural and unaffected, but does she really look “hideous” … or just like a normal woman? In truth, doesn’t she look more or less like, well, Mariah Carey without makeup? Compared to the film’s decidedly unflattering presentation of Mo’Nique, the diva hasn’t anything to protest about.
Anyway, once she eventually gets past the non-issue of her physical appearance, the LAT piece hints at a more interesting personal connection to her character — a weary social worker whose tough-love approach is shaken by the extremities of Precious Jones’s case — though she stops short of specifics:
When people say, ‘I didn’t know she had it in her,’ they don’t know my life. They don’t know my childhood and what I went through except for a very basic story because I don’t choose to tell the world … I went, ‘What does this woman feel every day with people coming at her, wanting something from her?’ And there may be people who are slightly disingenuous. Because I know a little of what goes on, believe it or not.
Whatever she knows, it obviously went into the performance, in which she exhibits an assured, hard-edged screen presence few suspected she had. (It’s common knowledge by now that she was a last-minute replacement for Helen Mirren, but I’d suggest she was actually more appropriately cast than the British Oscar-winner.)
It’s a largely reactive role, and I can’t agree with Kris’s stand that it’s an awards-worthy turn. (I think the surprise factor is principally responsible for the level of attention the performance is getting.) But good for Carey for turning herself from industry punchline to credible ensemble player.
UPDATE: MTV Movies has further praise for Carey from fellow “Precious” star Paula Patton and Sapphire, author of the film’s source novel. It’s more of the usual “I didn’t recognize her” talk, but I really like Sapphire’s description of Carey’s transformation that looks beyond the merely physical:
So she literally disappears … 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.
That’s the kind of endorsement that makes concerns of real or imagined “hideousity” seem rather insignificant.