Who's In It: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Maria Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz
The Basics: Move over Lars von Trier, director Lee Daniels is here to show you how women really suffer. If you've been under a rock lately then you might not yet know that this movie is about an obese, illiterate, 16-year-old African-American girl with a 4-year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome, a father who comes around just long enough to repeatedly rape her and cause not only that first pregnancy but also the one she's currently dealing with, a mentally ill mother who viciously abuses her verbally, physically, psychologically and sexually, and who then has to face even more horrors down the road as she struggles to break free from everything with the help of... wait, Mariah Carey?
What's The Deal: Okay, yes, Tyler Perry and Oprah are the executive producers but don't hold that against the movie. And, okay, also yes, the story is just this much too crowded with grueling, painful incident, so much so that you wonder if this poor girl would even be able to breathe anymore if it weren't fiction. But thanks to a roughly packaged, zig-zagging direction that works even when it's not all that proficient, as well as four emotionally exofliating, knock-you-down performances from everybody on screen, you wind up forgiving its filmmaking shortcomings.
How It's Like A Tyler Perry Movie: In the middle of all the agony, weird pockets of humor pop up, from small classrooms alternative school girls (seriously, as goofy as any rerun of Welcome Back Kotter) clowning around to incongruous fantasies where Sidibe and Mo'Nique act out subtitled Italian cinema. No, he doesn't show up in a dress. But you just know he volunteered for reshoots.
A Star Is Born Kinda Stuff: Gabourey Sidibe plays the title character and if she wasn't an actor before this, she sure is now. Most of the time she's just asked to respond to the insanity around her, but she does more with her face than most actors do with their whole bodies. There are awards waiting around the corner with her name on them.
The Mustachioed Revenge Of Glitter: Until this moment, if you'd ever said, "Guess what, there's going to come a day when you see Mariah Carey acting in a movie and you won't want to fall out laughing over it," I would have fallen out laughing. And it's not even a simple case of uglifying her, even though they did plenty of that. She acts. She holds her own in tense, powerful scenes. She speaks plainly and directly and cuts up monsters sitting right in front of her. Just go see it if you don't believe me.