FILM REVIEW: Mo’Nique Blackballed a “Blackbird” in Patrick-Ian Polk’s New Film
Opening in theaters on April 24th, Patrik-Ian Polk’s Blackbird had a great run on the festival circuit in 2014. Starring Academy Award winner Mo’Nique (Precious) and (reformed homophobe) Isaiah Washington, the film opened at the Outfest Fusion Festival, the Out on Film Festival, and took home the Festival Founders’ Award at the Pan-African Film Festival.
During press for the new independent black gay film, Mo’Nique and openly gay producer/director Lee Daniel’s (not associated with Blackbird) have been in a media back-and-forth on what was behind the actress’ film absence after her Oscar win.
For those unaware, in a telephone conversation, Lee Daniels allegedly admitted to Mo’Nique that she had been “blackballed” after the awards ceremony because she didn’t play the Hollywood game before, during and after the ceremony.
On top of that, Lee Daniels has gone on to release the biggest new hit on television EMPIRE featuring Taraji P. Henson as the fiery Cookie, the just released from prison, ex-wife of a music mogul.
Mo’Nique claims that Lee Daniels originally offered the role of Cookie to her. When word got back to FOX executives that she was “Difficult” to work with, Mo’Nique says they offered it to Taraji P. Henson instead.
Lee Daniels has gone on the offensive by clarifying his “blackballed” statement and adding that Mo’Nique “got in her own way.” Daniels says, “you gotta play ball. This is not just ‘Show’, this is ‘Show BUSINESS.'”
As recently as yesterday she fired back claiming that Lee Daniels had a problem with her not thanking him personally at the Oscars, thus leading to him not defending her to the FOX executives for the Cookie role on EMPIRE.
I’m really not sure how this insight into the the details of her being blackballed on CNN, Inside Edition and Good Morning America helps her career rebound or even how it helps to promote her new indie film, “Blackbird.”
Having said that, (spoiler alert) the film sucks.
No, really. It was extremely hard for me to make it though this film while still taking it seriously.
Not only is the film a retread story of a young (clearly) gay young man “struggling” with his sexuality in a world where ALL of his friends are openly gay and/or women, it features a yet another tale of a gay man desperately looking for love.
I do applaud Polk for his ability to raise financing to continue to make films at a decent level of quality. On the other hand, his films continue to look visually bland and generic, even with budgets to work with. Independent film in particular seems to beg for the opportunity for experimentation.
Instead, Polk gives us this:
Take Dee Rees’ low budget 2011 LGBT film “Pariah” for example. It has a visual style that defines the main character’s journey.
Polk’s films do none of this. Admittedly, Pariah’s cinematography was helmed by one of the best in the business, Bradford Young. Not every filmmaker will have access (or be able to afford) a Director of Photography that can do this:
Here’s the problem, though. Pariah was Dee Rees’ first feature film.
Blackbird is Polk’s FOURTH! Not to mention he also directed two seasons of Noah’s Arc! Why does his work still look and feel like after-school specials?
Speaking of special, the acting in this movie was not the strongest, even for a Patrik-Ian Polk film. While Isaiah Washington does a fine job here in his limited role, Mo’Nique hams up every scene she’s in shifting from psychotic to dementia at any given time.
True to form, Polk anchors the entire film on one young gay character who’s naive and unsure how to function socially. This time around we’re following the coming Out journey of main character Randy played by the really green newcomer Julian Walker.
On the other hand, Polk has always been great at casting the sexy young heterosexual male eye-candy that the softer main gay character lusts after for 90 minutes. Here, we get that in spades with the appearance of attractive newcomer Torrey Laamar.
This is where most of the positives end for me. But I’m in a minority. The reviews for Blackbird have been very positive and the film was embraced by audiences in the festivals. I can only assume that the reason was that none of them wanted to go on record bad mouthing a black gay film in the same year that Michael Sam made history.
OVERALL GRADE: E
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