It’s not her fault that her character is sentimental, corny, and the female equivalent of every Morgan Freeman part every played, but Taraji P. Henson worked hard to outmaneuver her part’s flagrant stereotype in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: the kind, wise, sage black woman whose name, Queenie, is also an embarrassing cutout.
Prior to Button, Henson was primarily working in the trenches of TV, with repeat roles on Eli Stone and Boston Legal, and like any good working actor, appearing in at least one of the Law and Order franchise, before catching a film break in Hustle & Flow. Button launches her into the major leagues, where she plays the young woman who finds the abandoned, weirdly aged baby on her doorstep. She doesn’t flinch for a second, because everyone is God’s children. What makes her character memorable is how she mixes sweetness with wry humor. Upon viewing him for the first time, she says “Poor child, he got the worst of it. Come out white.”
Even though everyone recoils around her at the sight of the geriatric infant, Queenie chides them. “This baby is a miracle,” she says.
Like Kate Winslet, Henson’s characters ages into her retirement years. When she leaves us we miss her; she’s the one solid thing holding together a whimsical tale.