Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Mighty Opportunity.... Missed

Yesterday, during a lazy, rainy Saturday morning, I busted a totally self-indulgent move and lay curled up in my bed and checked out A Mighty Heart on DVD. The film is based on Mariane Pearl's account of the terrifying story of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl's life and death. The movie starred Angelina Jolie and was produced by her man, Brad Pitt’s company Plan B.

Before the film was even released, I was disappointed when I heard Jolie would be playing Mariane Pearl, who was born in France and is of Dutch and Afro-Cuban descent. To look at Mariane, you can definitely tell she’s of color, with a head full of tightly coiled kinky curls and with a skin tone slightly richer than cafĂ© au lait.

This film and the role of Mariane Pearl could have offered a ripe opportunity for several Black/bi-racial actresses in Hollywood. It could have saved Thandie Newton from the degrading and demeaning Norbit or allowed Miss Halle Berry to demonstrate her acting chops without disrobing while fulfilling the wild, exotic fantasies of men everywhere, or they could’ve dug a little deeper and considered Jennifer Beals from Flashdance or even Cynda Williams from Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues, I mean come on… the list is freakin’ endless with possibilities.

Other than simple nepotism, I don’t understand why Jolie was chosen for this role. I expected more from the Jolie/Pitt machine, especially in light of their apparent interest in following the footsteps of the great Josephine Baker in creating a modern-day Rainbow Tribe. In my eyes, there is absolutely no reason for Angelina to pull a modern day Pinky.

The film opened to moderate fanfare with a screening at the Cannes Film Festival and appearances with both Jolie and Pearl on Oprah. My irritation with Jolie’s casting was dampened a bit when I learned Mariane completely endorsed this selection, but this lasted only for a moment and for months I simply simmered with outrage. I must admit, I’m not proud of this stance, because it is Mariane’s story and she has the right to tell it any way she sees fit and I’m all for a more global perspective and in a perfect world, I’d like to move beyond seeing things in only black and white, but by-golly sometimes I just can’t and it is what it is, and in this case, we all know that Hollywood offers woefully limited roles of substance for women of color.

When the film was released on DVD, I added it to our Netflix queue and to be honest, I don’t know why. I guess I wanted to see if my outrage was justified. Well… it was, through the entire film, I couldn’t take my eyes of that helmet-head wig on Jolie’s head and even though it was a well told story, I just couldn’t get beyond thinking, if only….

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