May 19 2009

'Precious' Gets Standing Ovation in Cannes, Mariah Praised for Dramatic Transformation

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AFP: Coming-of-age ghetto tale 'Precious' triumphs at Cannes

Hard-hitting US indie movie "Precious", the tale of an obese teenager trying to escape a lifetime of abuse, won a standing ovation for its director Lee Daniels at the Cannes festival Friday.

Daniels was moved to tears by the enthusiastic welcome for his film, which picked up the Grand Jury prize at Sundance and is running on the Riviera for the Un Certain Regard prize for new film talent.

The director was flanked by his mother, and by US singers Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, who both hold supporting roles in the film -- she as a dowdy social worker and he as a male nurse -- and who brought a splash of glamour to the red-carpet screening.

Set in 1980s Harlem, Daniels' harrowing film is the story of an illiterate black teenager, crushed by abuse and pregnant with her second child, who finds a chance to escape a dead-end life through a learn-to-read scheme.

The director said before the screening of his film, which is adapted from the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, that he was "deeply honored" to be in Cannes. "It is a dream, and it is a far cry from where I came from," he told the audience.

People: Mariah Carey Undergoes Dramatic Transformation for New Movie

Mariah Carey is known to fans as one of the most glamorous women in the world. But now they are about to see a different side of her in a gritty new movie.

Carey undergoes a transformation from her usual glam self into a dowdy social worker in the drama Precious, which was well received – as was Carey's performance – at its Cannes screening Friday.

"The only reactions from fans who have seen the trailer and twittered me have said the movie's amazing," Carey tells PEOPLE. "No one has said, 'Girl I can't believe you are there with those dark circles under your eyes and wearing a wig and looking nasty.' No one went that far."

Her husband, Nick Cannon, has been equally positive. "My husband's response was over-the-top supportive and amazing. It was not like, 'I can't believe you let yourself look like that in the movie.' "

Precious is based on the book Push by Sapphire and tells the story of a young girl growing up amid terrible domestic abuse in Harlem. It will be released to the public on Nov. 6.

Peel Away Layers

Carey told a small gathering of press at Cannes, "[The book] is intense and it is life-changing. I said, 'Let me peel layers away of who the world thinks I am, of who I personally think I am as a performer, as anything, and become, truly become, this woman who has a large responsibility.' "

Of her character, Carey said: "She is the audience and is that shocked person who hears what goes on and has to kind of bare her soul because she's hearing something that is so horrific that she's never heard before. There's a creative side of me that needs to do work like this."

Carey was chosen for the part at the last minute. "I thought how bold would it be to cast Mariah," says director Lee Daniels. "If she could dye her hair, put on a wig, take off the makeup, darken under the eyes, I believed she would begin to give me her soul. And she did."

The result, according to singer Lenny Kravitz, who plays a nurse in the movie, "was beautiful."

The Huffington Post: Cannes 2009: Mariah Carey in Precious

Any spectator of this new dramatic film by Lee Daniels, who has a tad of a self-esteem issue, will identify with the pains of this story. Indeed, the singer Mariah Carey -- who does an astonishingly good job as the compassionate social worker who deals with the dysfunctional family -- said at a press conference that what she liked about this film was that "Every one of us is Precious. And every one of us can make it like Precious does at the end of the film. So the film gives us hope."

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