Back in January, Oprah saw the movie 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire' just before it debuted to raves at the Sundance Film Festival, where it went on to win the competition's coveted Grand Jury Prize, as well as the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for Acting (for Mo'nique) ... and she was utterly blown away. Oprah Winfrey can turn an unknown novelist into a New York Times bestseller almost overnight, simply by adding the writer's work to her famed Book Club. So if getting the daytime TV goddess' endorsement for one's book is tantamount to guaranteed success, does the same thing apply for a movie based on a book? The world is about to find out.
Back in January, Oprah saw the movie 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire' just before it debuted to raves at the Sundance Film Festival, where it went on to win the competition's coveted Grand Jury Prize, as well as the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize for Acting (for Mo'nique) ... and she was utterly blown away.
In fact, Oprah was so taken with director Lee Daniels' harrowing adaptation of Sapphire's 1996 novel -- which depicts the inspirational tale of an overweight African-American teenage girl nicknamed Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) who rises above poverty, pregnancy and physical abuse to find redemption -- that she and fellow fan Tyler Perry helped in brokering 'Precious' a $5.5 million distribution deal with Lionsgate and even came aboard as executive producers. "I've never seen anything like it," Oprah said in a statement at the time. "The moment I saw ['Precious'] I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage other people to see this movie. The film is so raw and powerful -- it split me open."
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True to her word, the talk-show queen has thrown her full support behind 'Precious' with an uncommon voraciousness, publicly campaigning for it on her talk show (where the trailer debuted) and lining up guest appearances with the stars and filmmaker in advance of the movie's Nov. 6 theatrical release. Most recently, Oprah headed north of the border for the Toronto International Film Festival to thump for the indie gem, joining stars Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Mo'nique, Paula Patton and Sherri Shepherd at the film's red carpet, as well as at the film's press conference. She also reiterated her endorsement of the movie, saying, "It is so raw. It will suck the air out of the room at the end of the film, and that's a good thing."
That may be, but the big question is: Will Oprah's backing spell big box-office dollars for a movie that otherwise might be deemed too small, too dark and too challenging for mass audiences? The simple answer is most likely yes. But Oprah won't be doing all the work on her own. Mo'nique is already generating big-time Oscar buzz for her turn as Precious' extremely abusive mother Mary. Perhaps equally important, Mariah Carey's involvement in the film has moviegoers' interest piqued -- and then some. In a very uncharacteristic move, the notoriously glam singer/actress ditched makeup, hairstylists, designer clothes and even favorable lighting to play a frumpy social worker who takes a special interest in Precious. The result has been that she's earned the strongest notices (by a long shot) of her acting career.
As the movie's tag line says, "Life is rich. Life is Precious" -- and so are the prospects for this little-indie-that-could.