Thursday, December 31, 2009

Movie Review: Precious

Directed by Lee Daniels
Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire

This film is based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire.
Born in Harlem, Claireece “Precious” Jones’ life is filled with neglect, sexually abusive parents, and misery beyond compare.  Carrying her second child by an absent father, Precious must live and care for her mother Mo’Nique, a violently angry woman who verbally, physically, mentally and sexually abuses her.  Living off of welfare, Precious is under constant pressure to do everything for her mother, and nothing for herself.

However, under the guidance of her new found special education teacher, Precious continues to live life under the impression that there are endless possibilities for her.  And now, with a second child on the way, she must make a decision to push forward and discover a life she could have her and her children, or continue in an abusive and unloving home.

My Thoughts

This is probably one of the harder films I’ve ever sat through in my life as a movie goer.  Hardly anything in this film made me feel good, happy, or even positive about the reality of life for families on the poverty end of the scale.  It’s hard to imagine anyone with the ability to handle the harsh and terrible conditions that Precious had to live with.  I walked out of this movie feeling dirty and unable to fathom this world of abuse and neglect.

The film begins with the disturbing scene of Precious’ father throwing her on a bed, raping her, unbuckling his belt and thrusting himself on the constrained body of the middle school girl.  If that visual is not vulgar enough, we have the father whispering grotesque things into her ear.

“Daddy loves you.”
“You’re so much better than you’re mother.”

But of course her dad leaves, with Precious living her days waiting hand and foot on her mother Mary who does nothing except lounge around in her recliner barking orders and insults at Precious in addition to physically abusing her.  Mary is a prime example of those who abuse the welfare system.  When Precious was kicked out of school, Mary would tell her only child, “If you ain’t going to school, you better get your ass to the welfare office and start bringing home a check.”  This and much more describe the life of Precious.  Even after Precious has her second child, Mary shows her disgust by dropping a TV from the top floor of the apartment stairwell with Precious (and her baby) just below. 

The film is spectacular at setting up the character of Precious played by Gabourney Sidibe in her film debut.  As an audience, we learn very early on that this is a girl unlike most people.  She has experienced the most traumatizing aspects of life before she’s moved on to high school.  She’s on the verge of giving birth to a second child by her father, has a mother who hates her, uneducated, obese and lives in the dangerous streets of Harlem.  Her life is, needless to say, difficult.  But what I found the most interesting is how well Precious dealt with everything that was thrown at her.  Thank God she was introduced to Ms. Rain, her new special education teacher, who helped Precious realize how special she truly was and gave her confidence to transcend beyond the life she grew up in.  And when she finally realized that no one could grasp the life she has had the misfortune of experiencing, she finally decided to break away from all that was holding her back and venture out on her own to provide the best possible life for her children.  While this story was inspiring and moving, it was all at the same time depressing and hard to watch.

Mary, played by Mo’Nique, delivered one of the most powerful performances by an actress I have seen all year.  The only one I can see rivaling Mo’Nique would be Meryl Streep with her performance of sister Aloysius Beauvier in “Doubt.”  How anyone can even play a part of a heartless, unloving mother who beats and sexually abuses her child is beyond me, but Mo’Nique delivers a performance unlike any I’ve seen in 2009.  It’s in the last scene where Mo’Nique delivers her Oscar worthy bit of oratory; love and hate is what caused Mary to hate her only daughter.  And it makes sense when she has a boyfriend who sexually wants their daughter more than he wants her.  It’s a powerful statement that makes you both hate and sympathize with Mary.  Mo’Nique will be busy come time for the Oscars.

Sidibe, this being her very first film role, delivers a realistic and satisfying portrayal of poverty children living in run down section of cities.  Along with her sweet and quiet nature, Precious showed signs of feisty and defensive attitudes which she undoubtedly developed in her early stages of life.  Sidibe is living proof that experience is not necessarily what makes an actress great.

A very hard film to watch.  As much as I enjoyed the film, I don’t think I’ll ever be seeing it again, it is too depressing and angry.  However, with that being said, it’s one of the better films of 2009.  I have no idea if the Oscar nominations were cut off when this film came out in early November, but if they weren’t, I would be very disappointed if I didn’t see this film in the running for best motion picture.  And in the same respect, I would be even more disappointed and probably angry to not see Mo’Nique nominated for best supporting actress.  It was also really nice to see a quite literally all female cast in truly remarkable film.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars.

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