15 March 2010

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire


Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz
Written by Geoffrey S. Fletcher

Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Directed by Lee Daniels

Release: 06 November 2009

Smokewood Entertainment, 110 mins., Rated R

Plot: Overweight 16-year old Precious lives a shitty life, living with her Evil mom and pregnant with her second child, fathered by her...well, father; but Precious isn't going to allow this anymore, and decides to make changes.

20 minutes in, I found myself comparing Precious to Will Smith's 2008 drama Seven Pounds. I personally enjoyed it, and found it a thoroughly phenomenal movie of personal pain and redemption. The majority of folks found it a manipulative exercise in redundancy. This is where my feeling of Precious lodges. Thanks to a already depressing and sad story, all director Lee Daniels had to do was hire a decent enough actress and film it just right (i.e., nitty gritty, hand-held docu-style) to invoke just the right level of emotion, and make the viewer believe they've just seen a brilliant movie by the time the credits and sweet dedication ("for precious girls everywhere...") roll.

Geoffrey S. Fletcher adapted an apparently X-rated novel (producer Tyler Perry's words) and transformed it into a brutal hard R film, with legitimate cussing (as opposed to, say, Tony Scott's Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), fantastic fantasy sequences, and eventually ends up with a overall average screenplay. There's a fragmented feeling to the script - that what we have onscreen isn't the entirety of the story, and is instead a 'best of' collection of scenes that had great emotional impact in the original novel. The script adaptation doesn't do a adequate enough job making everything flow fluently: the pacing is off, sequences don't seem to connect as well, characters evolve at a rate faster than 1980's montages...

But what Precious is getting notoriety for isn't the subject matter as much as it is the powerhouse performances by its stellar cast consisting of the unlikeliest suspects. Relative unknowns with a few to zero movie credits, and a actress best known for her comic routines, the film boasts plenty of surprises.

Comedian Mo'Nique gives a performance as powerful as everyone says. She takes that stereotypical role of a lazy, bitchy, monstrous mom and she revels in it, she makes it a force of nature, a storm of sadistic slurs and disses. By the film's conclusion, where her character breaks down completely and a shred of humanity is identifiable, it's almost heart-wrenching. And that is one helluva feat considering that throughout the film's running time, you probably wouldn't give a second glance to a giant piano falling ontop and killing her character; in fact, you might just have your own little dance diddy. So for Mo'Nique to make this utter bitch a human at the end, and for the audience to at least have a shred of understanding towards her - um, wowage.

Taking on the role of
Claireece "Precious" Jones, Gabourey Sidibe is good. For the most part, she spends the film showing off her sad voice, not really hitting any real emotional punch until a freakin' eye-watering, heart-flutterin' scene of gut-bustingness in which Precious just rages at Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) for all the horrible stuff that's happened to her. Speaking of Ms. Rain, Paula Patton (Hitch) just has that look of someone who you've seen in a gazillion movies before, but to my surprise, her filmography isn't all that extensive.

As a overall product,
Precious is fine. But I can't help but shake the feeling that it's nothing more than manufactured fodder to make audiences gasp, see that life like this (which is commonplace) is horrible, have the credits roll, walk out and go back to their lives a little bit happier with their problems. It's just not powerful enough; it's just not honest enough. And then, at the end of it all, I gotta wonder: what's the point of Precious? By the film's end, the best that can be said about Precious is that she's improving in her academics, and that she got out of her mom's house. Nothing about if Precious herself has evolved as a person, whether she can stand up for herself and stop being a victim, nothing that shows a real evolution for the character.

So what's the point? What we have is a nearly 2-hour clip of a 16-year old's life, watch the tragedy that is her existence, and then it ends.

If the goal of the film was simply to showcase a young girl's turmoil, than it succeeded with flying colors. If, as producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry say, the film is 'inspiring', then where's the inspiring stuff? With Clint Eastwood's
Invictus, you got all the inspiring you need from the trailer itself - same goes with The Blind Side, but Precious has none of that.

Without going into it further, I'll just conclude this review by saying that no matter what I write,
Precious is a movie that seems to appeal to the public (simply judging by how many times I hear the film brought up in conversation and the bucket load of DVDs we sold the first week of release), and they want to experience the movie, so they'll give it a view. You want a good cry fest? Yep, this it the film for you. See some fine actresses in phenomenal performances? Check that a 'yes.' Just please, notice the lack of a really polished script, and the manipulative techniques trying to cover the film's faults. Oh, and keep some Kleenex close by.

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