As millions of movie goers visit the cinema theatres this festive holiday, most people may take a double look at the movie poster of Annie (2014). It is still rare for a mass-market movie to put a person of colour in the lead role, which is what director Will Gluck precisely does in this 2014 contemporary spin of a classic broadway musical under the same name.
Originally, Annie is a ginger redhead who lives in an orphanage in early 1900s. Considering that red hair is the rarest natural colour in humans, redheads were considered “different” in the early 1900s, very much like how blacks were treated unequally as a minority race in America until only in recent decades. It’s not hard to imagine a ginger Annie being picked on by other orphans and slightly disregarded by society as well – so, why the huge fuss over a black Annie this year?
When asked in an interview with Annie’s original composer Charles Strouse about his thoughts on a first-ever African American Annie, he expressed that he loved the idea:
“I always wanted to have a black Annie, so much so that we later integrated the orphanage several years into our first Broadway run. Back then, it didn’t make sense to cast an African American as Annie because the cartoon character was so iconic, but I was always in favour of someday having a black actress play the role, and Quvenzhane Wallis is amazing.
The saving grace of Annie (2014) might just lie in the fact that it was daring enough to reject social norms. Decades of consuming Hollywood blockbusters have made society focused on white men, and thus probably limited our ideas of who should be more deserving of love and empathy.
Jamie Foxx (plays Will Stacks) mentioned that he is hopeful that young people are evolving past the point of being preoccupied with race. It should be noted that many of the protests developed around America recently marching and holding “Black Lives Matter” signs and shouting down the systematic racism have featured diverse crowds of people.
Above all, Annie (2014) has proven that a black Annie does not hurt the integrity of the musical. This should be considered the core entertainment factor in this film, considering that it is after all an adaptation of a broadway musical.
Performance scores such as “It’s A Hard-Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” are still kept true to the storyline, perhaps even providing a breath of fresh air through this contemporary spin on classic broadway numbers. You know that there is a remarkable 21st century touch to Annie’s music when you hear honks from NYC’s yellow cabs, sounds from helicopter blades and even astounding vocals from featured artist Sia throughout the movie’s soundtrack.
Controversial racial issues aside, Annie (2014) serves as a spectacular family film this festive holiday, visually and musically. Personally, it made me both laugh and cry, of which in my opinion is reflective of a movie’s success in appealing to the audience.
Despite negative reviews of Annie (2014) rolling in that it is “flat” or deserves to “stay in the orphanage”, I urge you not to overlook this film the next time you’re over the cinema ticketing counter. Listen to your curiosity and give black Annie a shot – you just might be surprised how Annie’s story, regardless of racial backgrounds, can easily steal your heart all over again.
Annie opens in cinemas 18 Dec 2014.
Featured Image: Barry Wetcher/Columbia
Directed by: Will Gluck
Produced by: Jay-Z and Will Smith
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Running time: 118 minutes