The miraculous story of Lee Daniels' "Precious: Based on Push a novel by Sapphire" continues.
The film stunned many by winning both the Grand Jury and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, but now it's made history. Today, "Precious" won the People's Choice Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. No other film has won both audience awards at both festivals. Ever. Taking into account the film's acceptance into the Cannes Film Festival and the upcoming screening at the New York Film Festival, the little picture who people scoffed at for starring Mo'Nique and Mariah Carey has already cemented itself as one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved movies of the year.
And it's not over.
Many studios backed away from trying to acquire the independently financed "Precious" out of Sundance because of how "tough" they thought it would be for audiences to sit through, but Lionsgate saw the potential and recruited not only their partner Tyler Perry to present the film as an executive producer, but none other than Oprah Winfrey as well. The hope was that after picking up the film for only $6 million, "Precious" could ride some critical accolades, contend for some Oscar nominations (maybe) and use Oprah and Perry's stamp of approval to reach $20-30 million at the box office. Uh, you can throw that all out of the window right now.
"Precious" is on the verge of becoming a phenomenon. I cannot tell you how many journalists, critics and writers have downplayed the potential of the film until they see actually see it (meaning: it's winning over those inclined not to like it). Let's be honest, Daniels, who produced "Monster's Ball" and directed the not-so loved "Shadowboxer," doesn't have the greatest reputation with many in Hollywood. It won't matter once the town sees "Precious." All will be forgiven (well, by many at least). For "Precious" to beat the universally loved "Up in the Air," "A Serious Man" and "An Education" at Toronto is jaw-dropping. It proves that audiences no matter what their color or economic background have been moved by this inspiring story of a teenage girl trying to make a life for herself in late 1980s Harlem. And the audience love proves this film has the box office potential for double or even triple Lionsgate's original theatrical estimates.
Most award season prognosticators have admitted that with the advent of the ten nominations or Best Picture that "Precious" was on a short list to easily get in and that Mo'Nique would be a deserved player in the best supporting actress race. As time passes, they will soon be asking themselves whether "Precious" can actually win it all.
As for the other Toronto Audience Awards goes, Bruce Beresford's "Mao's Last Dancer" and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs" were the second and third runner ups in the People's Choice category behind "Precious." The inaugural People's Choice for Documentary went to "The Topp Twins" with Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" placing second. The People's Choice in the Midnight Madness section went to Sean Byrne's "The Loved Ones" followed by another Lionsgate title, "Daybreakers," which hits theaters in January.
To view a great interview with Mo'Nique on "Precious" (and her new TV show), click here.