Title: Precious (2009)
Director: Lee Daniels
Writer: Geoffrey S. Fletcher
Stars: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz
Precious was one of the films with the proverbial "Oscar buzz" going for it this past awards season. It was nominated for a couple of Oscars, and everyone was talking about Mo’Nique’s amazing performance. But the film had been getting praise long before the Academy Awards ever came along. It won awards left and right, for its writing, its acting and direction. It premiered to great acclaim at Sundance, and won three of the best awards you could win in Sundance: Audience Award, Grand Jury Prize for best Drama and Special Jury Prize for Mo’Nique’s performance in the film. It’s won many more awards since. I had also read some extremely positive reviews around the blogosphere about this film, so needless to say, I was pumped to see this movie. Did it live up the hype?
Precious is the story of Clarice “Precious” Jones, a 16 year old girl who’s having one hell of a time getting through life. Her mother and father abuse her sexually; she has gotten pregnant by her father and has just been kicked out of school for it. It goes without saying that Precious has a hellish family life, her mother Mary treats her like less than nothing, spewing such gems at Precious as “I should have aborted your ass”. But Precious believes in herself, and she believes she can drag herself out of this misery she lives in. Will she be able to do it?
Precious is the kind of film that thrusts its main character into the deepest pits of despair with no apparent way out. One horrible thing after another happens to Precious and you kind of feel like the onslaught of negativity reaches unrealistic levels. This is one of the reasons why this film has gotten some criticism. According to some, the level of trouble that is inflicted upon Precious is not believable, because it’s just so much. The film is based on a novel by an author called Sapphire. Im not familiar with Sapphires work, and I have not read the novel, but what I’m thinking is that the author of the novel was trying to inflict the main character with all these extremely horrible situations and moments, as a means of collectively commenting on them. Precious is 16, abused by both her parents, pregnant and kicked out of high school for it. A couple of other truly horrible things happen to her, but I won’t mention them, just so you’ll experience the film for yourself. To me it felt like the films onslaught of negativity was the author’s way of exposing her audience, through the use of one character, to all these real life situations that do happen out there in the world. It’s a compilation of evil. So, if all the bad things that happen to Precious seem a little too much for you, remember, the filmmakers are just trying to let you know that these things do happen in our society and that we have to collectively try and stop them from happening! Precious is a mirror of what happens in the real world. At least I saw it that way.
The novel on which the film is based on
There’s a lot of talk about how the film is shocking, and yes, a bit difficult to process; yet I see some positive angles to the film. In my book, exposing issues like rape, incest, verbal and physical abuse and other issues out in the light is something positive. Of course, it’s hard to digest because they are dark themes; ugly sides of human behavior, but by talking about these themes and exposing them, I think a greater good is achieved. A film like this could help a person going through similar situations to overcome them, face them and deal with them. So that’s positive. Another positive angle is that Precious takes it upon herself to better herself. She wants out of this situation, and she is doing something about it. She searches through the proper channels for help, no matter what her hateful mother might tell her. She realizes her family situation is messed up and she is doing something about it. So the character is a fighter, looking for a way out of the dark.
Mariah tries her hardest to get us to forget all about 'Glitter'
Speaking of Precious’s hateful mother; she is played by Mo’Nique an actress who I always associated with silly comedies like Soul Plane or Phat Girlz. She’d done a dramatic role or two in the past, but she was mostly known for her role in comedies. After Precious, any preconceptions I had about Mo’Nique were shattered! She displayed a great capacity for dramatic roles, she nailed her character. Mo’Niques ‘Mary’ was 100% pure concentrated evil. Its not surprising. Many actors known for their comedic roles have the capacity to perform in serious dramatic roles as well. I mean, think about how many comedians have made that jump from comedies to drama: Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Murray, Robin Williams, to name but a few. Now we can add Mo’Nique to that list. There were more then a few moments in the film where I literally shouted out “and that’s why she won the Oscar!” The thing about the performance is that it feels so real, so evil, so genuine! Of course, she had a great script to work with, but wow, she really brought that character to life. The Oscar was very well deserved.
Mo'Nique is the sum of all evils on this film
The actress who was chosen to play the role of Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) had never acted on any other film, but she also shines. Her physical persona is very imposing; even the boys at school are intimidated by her. She protects herself from the outside world by projecting this angry “don’t fuck with me” persona. But at one point in the film she peels off that angry face and she pours out all her pain and suffering in one of the most touching moments in the film. Praise goes to Mrs. Sidibe as well, she was an essential part of what made this movie work. Mariah Carey does a surprisingly good performance as the social worker who helps Precious confront her problems. Lenny Kravitz plays a small role as a nurse. Not entirely sure why he was in there, cause his role seemed unnecesary, I guess he just plays the male nurse who treats Precious nicely while she's at the hospital. So that’s my take on Precious. I highly recommend it. In my book, the film deserves all the praise it’s gotten.
Rating: 5 out of 5