Directed by Lee Daniels
Released November 6, 2009
When a story with a dark subject matter is adapted for the screen, it often incurs wild praise for bringing something to light. As disturbing as is it to watch physical and sexual abuse occur onscreen and to see how it affects the victim’s way of living, it’s equally difficult to visualize and bring such content and scenes to life. “Precious” deserves credit for traveling down dark paths and fleshing out an inspiring character through the miserable journey, but it’s hardly the film of the year. It’s one of those cases where the story is better than the movie, but those who are wowed and awed by the plot will likely fall in love with the film.
Breakout actress Gabourey Sidibe stars as 16-year-old Clareece Jones, who goes by the moniker of Precious. She is an underachieving student whose lack of effort and academic prowess is due mostly to the horrific abuse she receives from her mother Mary (Mo’Nique), who does nothing but sit around at home all day watching television and trying to collect welfare checks, and the fact that she’s pregnant with her second child by her father who raped her. Precious’ life is an exceedingly dreary one, and her enrollment at an alternative school begins to change her perception on education and enrich her appreciation of the world around her. Yet throughout her journey towards happiness, aided by her classmates and kindly teacher Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), Precious is continually brought down by the uniformly negative criticism and violent nature of her mother and her miserable home life.
It’s easy to forget that Precious is only sixteen years old. Her face displays such a stoic weariness that hides eternal doubt based on the horribly critical parenting practiced by her mother, but sometimes Precious breaks into a childish smile or giggle that reminds the audience that this is a teenage girl who shouldn’t have experienced a tenth of what she has. The young Sidibe is quite talented, and this is very likely her role of a lifetime. Similarly, popular comedian Mo’Nique completely burrows herself in the despicable role of Mary, and she’s utterly terrifying and pitiful at every turn. It’s impossible to perceive the actresses in their scenes together since they’re both so fully in character, and the film is guided mostly by their impressive performances, both of which should herald Oscar attention.
Precious’ story is a harrowing one which stays mostly buried under a gloomy rock. It’s always bleak and never allows Precious the opportunity to enjoy true happiness without coming up against another obstacle. Nothing is sugar-coated, and everything is erred right out in the open, unambiguously. There’s something to be said for that, but as a film, there’s little that distinguishes it, aside from the performances. An attempt is made to flesh out Precious’ imagination and have her flash to pretended scenes of superstar MTV celebrity when she faces her darkest moments. It’s a decent effort, but the film might have been better not to try to create such an artificial escape. “Precious” is a good film certainly worth seeing, but it’s not a grandstanding filmmaking achievement. Strong performances and a compelling story enhance a film that’s merely average.
Friday, November 6, 2009