Earlier this year, a certain movie name ‘Sparkle’ was released. It was one of those ‘Dreamgirls’ type films that looked marginally entertaining and cliché ridden and so I passed rather easily. I had no desire to waste my time on the film. The reviews weren’t very forgiving, and while it escaped with ‘decent’ notices, it never sounded like something that had to be seen. But, amidst the sea of lukewarm reviews there was a bright spot; a sparkle if you will.
Ejogo received ‘star is born’ type notices, being singled out as a bright light in the cast and a performance that had to be seen. For about a week buzz on the internet exploded and people started wondering if she could actually snag an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of troubled Sister. That buzz died rather quickly, mostly because an Oscar nomination for a film like ‘Sparkle’ was, well, impossible. Still, with the nominees released for both the Black Reel Entertainment Awards and the NAACP Image Awards I’m kind of baffled that Ejogo hasn’t landed on their Supporting Actress ballots. I mean, Naomi Harris is a very talented actress, but what exactly does she do in ‘Skyfall’? I’ve seen the film and she’s nothing but sexy. Henson was great in ‘Think Like a Man’, but there is marginal character development at best. Seriously, tell me what Stenberg does in ‘The Hunger Games’ that warrants a nomination?
Snubbing Ejogo is just ludicrous!
I guess you can probably guess that despite my initial disinterest, I actually saw ‘Sparkle’.
‘Sparkle’ is the film I expected. It is marginally entertaining and cliché ridden. Sadly, this very complaint trickles into each and every character depicted; except Sister. The story tells that of young Sparkle, a goodie-two-shoes daughter of a hardnosed mother with a dark past who keeps a tight grip on her three daughters and demands they give up their dreams for a relationship with God. Taking place in the 60’s, the world is bursting with the sound of Motown, and Sparkle has a knack for penning some catchy songs. Her sister Sister has the presence to make those songs unforgettable and soon, with the help of an up and coming manager the two sisters and their younger sister Dolores form a girl group (Sister and her sisters) behind their mother’s back. Of course, drama overtakes the group and their dreams are shattered due to a series of circumstances, but that’s to be expected.
‘Sparkle’ tries really hard to be ‘Dreamgirls’, but ‘Dreamgirls’ wasn’t even that great of a film so it isn’t really trying to be much of anything memorable. It has some nice moments, some nice music and some nice sets but overall the film is pretty empty. The skeletal character development is sad. Sparkle is your blandly depicted straight laced innocent girl with dreams bigger than her town. Dolores is nearly absent and is only there to serve as a third member to the group. Emma, the mother, is nothing more than a stereotype. She looks disapprovingly every time her daughter’s open their mouths and she plays the overprotective mother hen with no shades, even when the screenplay tries to give her some. The immediate turnaround at the film’s end is bizarre and carries little weight. Satin, Sister’s comedian husband, is a stereotypical brute with no depth and Stix is as blandly written as they come (what has happened to Derek Luke?)
But then there is Ejogo and her portrayal of Sister. I mean, it’s almost like she’s from a different movie entirely, and Ejogo tries desperately to save this sinking film. She almost does, for every scene that she is in shines so brightly because of her presence. The amazing thing is that she didn’t have to try so hard. Sister is a character that actually has depth and there was a bounty of material here for her but instead of resting on the obvious, Ejogo digs so much deeper. She could have relied on sexy, but instead of infused so much desperation and eventual pain into her sexy. She nailed it, and the relationship with Satin and her refusal to accept the life she once had is marvelously lived in.
She left me speechless.
So, while I can’t recommend the film itself too highly, I do insist that you see it. Ejogo deserves that much. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t land on my Supporting Actress ballot this year, she’s that impressive here. In a sea of ‘nothing characters’, Ejogo truly sparkles.