Reel Shorts | Precious Review

13 11 2009

Lee Daniels’ latest film, Precious is a dark, harrowing look at the perilous world of an obese teenager. But amidst all of the hurt and pain is monumentally groundbreaking story that is a peek into a rarely if ever seen world that despite all of it’s tough and unusual circumstances still manages to remain hopeful.

Set in 1987 Harlem, Claireece “Precious” Jones (newcomer Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe) seems like the typical 16-year old teenager, who daydreams about a rosy future of boys, money and fame. In reality, the morbidly obese Precious has already had one child, reads on a second grade level and lives at the whims and demands of her hateful tyrant of a mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), who resents her for her own twisted and selfish reasons.

Living in a virtual home jail, Precious’ only respite is her brief moments of wonderment and fantasy where she imagines a life far different from the ongoing hell she suffers daily. Imagining herself as a model, the desire of multiple men or even as a White girl, there is nothing Precious about her future prospects. But hope springs eternal when by chance a school principal takes an interest in the introverted teen and offers her one last opportunity learn.

Soon Precious gains several powerful allies in her struggle initially in a sympathetic, engaging teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) and a neighborhood social worker, Ms. Weiss (Mariah Carey). Like a ghetto rose trampled on the ground, slowly Precious begins to blossom while learning to trust and come to grips with the terrible physical, emotional and sexual abuse in her life.

What Daniels has created is emotionally engaging film that feels like it reaches inside tugs at your heart while examining your soul; quite an impressive feat indeed! Filmed in a mere five weeks, he has pulled the curtain back to expose a world that is rarely ever been shown on screen. Not since “The Color Purple,” has the harrowing tale of abuse been portrayed so effectively on the big screen. Precious is a modern-day Celie living under the roof of one of the most abusive mothers in motion picture history played brilliantly and passionately by Mo’Nique.

Manipulative, evil and hateful, instead of playing Mary as a cardboard stereotype, Mo’Nique channels an inner rage that drives the character to unspeakable depths of depravity while managing to make her almost a sympathetic figure. It is not only if she will receive Oscar consideration but voters will be hard-pressed to find another performance of equal strength and power an ANY movie released this year. Just think that if not for both Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, this film would have probably gone straight-to-DVD, but with the backing of two Hollywood heavyweights, “Precious” gets the platform that it not only deserves but a chance for us all to reexamine our perspectives on all of the other “overlooked and neglected women” with interesting stories to tell.

Working from Sapphire’s incredibly graphic source material and Geoffrey Fletcher’s script, Daniels tones down some of the more intense moments in the book while never reliquishing any of it’s urgency or effectiveness. He also benefits from a bevy of strong supporting performances including Patton’s tender, caring turn as well as severely understated but effective turn by Carey. Nearly a decade ago, her career was thought to be over after the disastrous “Glitter,” but just as amazing as Mo’Nique’s startling career-changing performance is that Carey may at long last finally be taken seriously as an actor. Another musician/actor Lenny Kravitz is also solid in a limited role as another earth angel for Precious and the only positive male role model in the entire film.

But the engine that makes this impressive film go is newcomer Sidibe who beat out 400 girls to nab the title role in the film. The 24-year old psychology major’s performance in this film will undoubtedly have more effect on young troubled women than a lifetime of sessions of individual therapy sessions. She is marvelous as well as equally engaging as young woman navigating unspeakable horror and despair who despite EVERYTHING still manages to win your heart!

While there will be some that think that Daniels’ film is exploitative and shows racial self-hate, “Precious” soars and is truly a revelation showing that even in life’s more dire circumstances, there is always a place called hope.

Grade: A+




3 responses

13 11 2009
Kechelle Harvey

wow i thought that the movie was opening on november 6 and i was trying to get friends and family to go see the and the same with the 13th of november but i know now that the movie will open nation wide on november 20 but if there are any screenings in Baltimore please pick me

Baltimore Market please.

21 11 2009
Jin Jan

Somehow, it revives memories of Jame’s Baldwin’s “Go Tell It to the Mountains,” that stigmatized the culture of Black families as not very complimenting to men and women alike… unmarried mothers letting their young daughters be raped by their lovers, drugs and illiteracy. Besides, Harlem has become one of the major tourist attractions today… thanks to the hard work of Blacks in academics, music, art, etc. and also to the Clintons, and I honestly believe it’s a shame for this film to deliver a poor image connection to Harlem. Besides, I did find much difficulty reading Saphire’s ‘Push’ as well due to the gibberish language that I actually struggled to reconstruct into proper English! Also, just as I don’t think Marc Foster did justice to Halle Berry’s image in ‘Monster’s Ball’ by creating the a stereotype impression of a black girl being easy prey for sexual abuses, Lee Daniels is not giving any better image of poor black women in his film. And like Marc Foster gave Billy Bob Thorton’s Hank an upper hand over Halle Berry’s Leticia, Lee Daniels has given Maria Carey’s Mrs. Weiss an upper hand over Mo’Nique’s Precious.

4 02 2010

I film that was very good, but just not great like it could have been in my eyes.

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