Sunday, May 23, 2010

Warming up in the bullpen

Lee Daniels has two great assets as a director, a poetic, at times spellbinding visual sense and an awe-inspiring rolodex. Daniels is famous today (and deserves to be) for Precious. Shadowboxer (2006), his first feature release has a marvelous assurance for such a strange film, beginning with its completely odd cast.

Daniels first made his mark as a producer, most notably of Monster's Ball, which leads one to wonder if his knack for offbeat casting is not opportunistic. One would not ordinarily think of Helen Mirren as a hitman as she plays in Shadowboxer, but would think of her for the role for which she was cast in Precious, an acid-tongued social worker. Except that Mirren wasn't available, so Daniels cast Mariah Carey. He seems to have a crazy, fling-it-against-the-wall attitude toward casting which so far has paid off.

Mirren's consort is Cuba Gooding, Jr. Their doctor (to patch them up from assassination-related injuries) is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and his girl friend, called "Precious" is played by Mo'Nique. The ease with which these actors, who presumably all share Daniels as a mutual friend belies the awkwardness of the gathering. The whole thing is bound with a dream-like visual style, linked by close-ups of eyes and bound together with an eclectic score by Mario Grigorov (although I also detected some Piazzolla tangos as well).

The story is preposterous, but has a truth of a fable. I don't know about anyone else, but seeing Shadowboxer, I would have given him the money to make Precious. IMDb lists his future projects as including something called Selma as well as Miss Saigon. I'd like to see those.

No comments:

Post a Comment