Sunday, December 27, 2009

Precious (2009)

PRECIOUS
DIRECTED BY: LEE DANIELS
WRITTEN BY: GEOFFREY FLETCHER
NOVEL BY: SAPPHIRE
OVERALL SCORE: 7.75/10


Currently pregnant with her second child, having been rapped both times by her own father, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) struggles with her day to day life at the hands of an abusive mother (Mo'Nique) and lacking education. When suspended from her school, she is sent to an alternative school where she meets Ms. Rain (Paula Patton). Illiterate and unsure of what to do with her life, Rain provides Precious with the encouragement to seek out a better life for herself.

I'll openly admit that I possessed an extremely wide range of concerns going into my viewing of Precious. Some founded, some not, it was a film I believe most people should see in their lifetime. That of course by no means makes Precious an amazing movie, but rather it's an amazing story, filled with painful downs, quiet ups, about a character who strives for more despite never knowing what that ever means. Throughout the film we are privy to the deep thoughts, dreams, and fantasies of Precious. We see what she sees in the mirror, a skinny white blond girl, her fantasies of being in music videos and Hollywood films. Yet much like Precious, there is a harsh reality that must be faced before any of these dreams can be tackled.

Here is where Precious comes to form. Mo'Nique engrosses the self-absorbed, welfare supported, violent, and all around worthless, mother to Precious, so much so her performance is difficult to appreciate until you truly see its impact in the final confrontation. As well supporting members Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz each perform their duties admirably, each falling right into their roles. Yet no matter how you slice it, this film is Gabourey Sidibe's. Despite any flaw, Sidibe's Precious is so perfectly portrayed you fall into the world of this character almost seamlessly, fighting with this character through the daily struggles, hoping for the happy ending, and yet fearful of what may come.

Though even for all its strengths, Precious does have one debatable flaw: Lee Daniels. During the breakout brightened emotional scenes Lee Daniels hits every note, perfect 100, amazing detail. When it comes to the darker scenes, the really painful ones, Daniels (and probably the writer Fletcher) opts to utilize imagery, fantasies, and visualizations to capture Precious' escape from reality. While this is welcomed in the course of the film, during these moments it often feels like a distraction from the hard hitting pain being presented to us. This use is especially glaring during the film's opening hour, but luckily for us recedes as the movie moves along, and the characters are allowed to open up. All of which culiminates in a final hour as powerful a piece of cinema as I've seen this year, wiping away any negative the first hour may have generated, and striking its viewer at its deepest emotional cues.

The first hour is a very mixed affair, but its latter half will move its audience to tears and back again, well worth your viewing time.

4 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

It's lonely sitting on this fence disliking Precious. But I've got to do what I got to. Isn't ironic though that the second half [with less of MoNique] is the better half? When Daniels sits back and just let it be a little coming of age drama in the classroom the film is more satisfying.

PS. See you got that plug over at LAMB. Congrats. Don't forget where you came from ;).

Sage Slowdive said...

I have to disagree with both of you and say Mo'Nique is the driving force behind Precious, and her eventual Oscar win (or at least I hope) will be one of the most deserved of all time.

Univarn said...

@Andrew I remember you giving it a mixed review, but I'd say it may be a bit better than you are giving it credit for. I also don't blame Mo'Nique for the first half.

@Sage I'd say Mo'Nique is a powerful force, but I don't think she's the driving force, and I do agree she is the best supporting actress frontrunner (and I wouldn't mind seeing her win though I don't know if it's one of the most deserved of all time).

L. VAZQUEZ said...

I saw the film "Precious" and I just don't think it is a story that most black women (or most women!) will relate to.... incest...parental insanity... maternal hatred...even one scene where the mother tries to kill her daughter with the television...

"Precious" gets an A+ for poverty porn...dutifully presenting all of the usual stereotypes about poor blacks on welfare sitting in front of the t.v. set defrauding the "system"...

I saw the movie in a theatre that had a mainly black female audience and the audience was not crying at the end...or during the film. Did Lee think it would be a tear-jerker for black women? Maybe it is a tear-jerker for those whose own lives are close to the story that is being presented....

I would suspect that may be the case.

I think that Mo'Nique delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. I hope she walks away with Best Supporting Actress.

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