Proud Mary may not be pleased after all.
The Taraji P. Henson-starrer was among the year’s most anticipated films when the trailer dropped last year. Henson’s turn as Mary, a hitwoman working to an organized crime family in Boston, appeared like the shameful response to Atomic Blonde—that is until this year rolled around, where it feels like Sony and Screen Gems have completely dropped the ball on boosting it.
Proud Mary is outside this Friday, and societal networking was flooded not with excitement for the movie but confusion as to why it is not being pushed harder. Is it a case of a studio underselling a black movie, as is customary in Hollywood? Or does Sony want to conceal how the movie may not be that great?
It’s not screening for critics this week, so don’t expect any advance reviews of Proud Mary. Additional critics attending the movie’s press junket weren’t allowed to screen the movie first, so interviews with Taraji will need to stay vague as it is somewhat hard to discuss a movie that you haven’t seen yet with an actress.
Henson herself has even expressed frustration with the promotion of the movie.
In a pre-Christmas interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Henson said she’s been “begging and pleading my relations and doing whatever I can to make this film the best it can be. I really don’t just put my name on stuff just to say it ; I get down and dirty. [Studios] never expect [black films] to do well overseas. Meanwhile, you move overseas and what exactly do you see? People trying to look like African-Americans with Afros and dressing in hip fashions. To say that black culture does not sell well overseas, that is a lie. Somebody just does not want to do their job and foster the movie overseas. Would you not have folks streaming my Christmas specials in Australia? Come on, yall! I really don’t understand the thinking. Send me, and if it fails, then we don’t do it, but why don’t you try? If I knew this movie was gonna make money domestically, I would try to get more money overseas. It’s business!”
Traditionally, Hollywood has blamed lack of interest in black films overseas as the reason they don’t market them there. However, just last year, Get Out raked in big money overseas–as did Hidden Figures the year before–and historically, films like Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Independence Day, along with Bad Boys 2 have, too. If anything, it is a systemic problem of imagining black movies undersell in America and in turn, fail overseas. Henson starred in Hidden Figures and her tv drama Empire screens internationally, so why not grow her into a burgeoning global box-office star?
Since Octavia Spencer, Henson’s Hidden Figures co-star, stated, “[Will Smith] was told exactly the same thing–that he was not going to be taken to market his movie. Had he not paid for himself to fly all over the world that first time, he would not be an global box-office star. So they have to begin investing and taking black actresses and celebrities across the world like they do with unknown white celebrities. They have to do the identical thing for black celebrities. If you don’t know ’em, why would you go support the movie?”
Speaking of Smith, actually his critically panned film Intelligent managed to be a victory for Netflix (a sequel is already greenlit) and trust me, Proud Mary would need to do some heavy lifting to be worse than that trash.
Henson was a star for decades and it is a shame there is not a larger drive for Proud Mary. This week, I accidentally stumbled upon a Facebook Live interview with the celebrity that lasted less than 10 minutes and had her scrolling through an iPad to discover lovers’ questions to answer in real time. It looked like a thrown-together performance from a flailing media company that has decided to “pivot to video”
I’ve been rooting for Henson for several years. Fans are excited to see the film and want to support it and help studios recognize that black films–and films starring women–have a starving audience that craves more than a few tweets and TV commercials. As Henson told THR, “If a guy can do it, why can’t we? I feel like women get much better as we age. Give us the same chances as you give guys.”