With Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys working together on the same movie, there’s a good bet it’s going to be a powerful piece, but when you add first lady Michelle Obama’s unwavering support, powerful is pretty much a done deal.
“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete” is that kind of movie. So much so, that before executive producer Keys screened it at the White House last month, the first lady told a group of influential educators, “This is truly one of my favorite films this year, and it obviously has moved me, and it will be the guiding post for my work over the next three years.”
High praise for director George Tillman’s independently produced survival tale/coming-of-age story, and unexpected praise at that.
“I was very shocked that she even screened the film. I was like, ‘Wow!’ I was a little nervous about it,” Hudson said, speaking by phone Monday from her home in Chicago. “I actually didn’t know until the day that she was doing it. I was like, ‘Michelle is screening this at the White House? Oh my God that’s amazing!’ And to see a project reach that far and to be screened by the first lady was amazing. That makes an impact to the people that can help make a difference.”
That Mrs. Obama wanted to show influential educators the film is what surprised Keys the most. “When I first was looking at this piece and what it meant to me, I didn’t really look at it in that way. But to actually look at it through that scope of how education plays such a huge part in our directive, and where we go in our life, and the support in our life, and how that brings parents and teachers together, and how that allows young people to have opportunity through a whole other different level is an underlying theme of this piece, even though I didn’t recognize it off the bat,” Keys told us in a separate phone call yesterday from New York City.
Keys’s surprise might stem from the fact that very little of the film takes place in an actual school. Most of the action centers around two inner-city kids, Mister (Skylan Brooks) and Pete (Ethan Dizon), falling hard and fast through the proverbial cracks. After Mister’s mom (Hudson) gets arrested, the two friends spend the summer dodging the housing authorities, trying to feed themselves, and fending off the dangers of their Brooklyn projects. All the while, Mister clings to his dreams of being an actor.
The film also features Hudson’s fellow “American Idol” alum Jordin Sparks. It’s interesting to note that two “Idol” contestants star in a movie (produced by a Grammy-winning R&B star) about a young man chasing his far-off dreams, even in the face of peril.
“You make the dream. Don’t let it make you,” said Hudson on the topic. “Because a lot of times people lose themselves along their journey of discovering their dream and realizing it and achieving it. So, it depends on if you can hold on to your character, remain who you are, and not let it change you or take you over.”
“Dreams are so important to have, and they save us. They save us because they make us get up that one more day and try one more time to do one more thing. And that’s really all that everything is about, because if we do it long enough it will happen,” said Keys. “So I do think the dark side of dream chasing is not having a dream at all.”
Certainly Mrs. Obama has big dreams about kids like Mister and Pete realizing their own dreams, which she outlines in the video below. While it will take plenty of effort, the first lady’s got two real-life dream-achievers in Hudson and Keys to help her get the job done.
“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete” is available today on DVD, Digital HD, video on demand, and pay-per-view.