"Precious": Movie Review (2009)

1/01/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review


Directed by Lee Daniels, written by Geoffrey Fletcher, 109 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

Lee Daniels’ “Precious” is about as ugly and as disturbing as any movie in recent memory. It’s unflinching in its violence. Its power comes from its mix of horror, hatred and hope. And while you know this isn’t the case, there nevertheless is the sense that everyone involved in the production has lived through the sort of hell presented here.

This is a slice of the American nightmare, where dreams are seemingly so impossible to achieve, they get pushed into sequences of gleaming, far-reaching fantasy, where real life can’t get close enough to foster them.

Geoffrey Fletcher based his script on the novel “PUSH” by Sapphire, and what he and Daniels created is one of 2009’s most controversial films, with rap star Mo’Nique and newcomer Gabourey “Gabbie” Sidibe delivering two of the year’s best performances.

In the film, Sidibe is Claireece “Precious” Jones, a 16-year-old girl who in 1987 Harlem was as much a victim of her own morbid obesity as she was of the cruelty surrounding her. Most of the violence takes place at home, where her father repeatedly raped her--giving her one child, leaving her with another on the way--and where her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), carries such a festering resent of Precious (“You stole my man! It’s because of you he left!”), she’s willing to kill her daughter with meaty swings of a cast-iron pan, or by dropping a television set on her.

It’s at an alternative school that Precious meets Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), who teaches Precious how to read and works to transform her life. Assisting to that end is Ms. Weiss, a social worker played with focus and restraint by Mariah Carey. As each comes to know Precious’ story, mother Mary is called into question. And how do you think that goes down when she’s brought in to explain herself?

Much has been written about how “Precious” is being received by the black community. Some have called it racist and claims it showcases a kind of slavery. Others disagree. Some recall the films Spike Lee made in the ‘80s, they remember the nerve they touched, and they’re pleased this movie is touching also touching one--if only to continue the conversation about race in America and how it’s viewed by Hollywood.

Perhaps the unrest surrounding “Precious” also comes down to this: Too many of today’s audiences don't want to feel uncomfortable at the movies--life is tough enough. Shouldn’t movies off an escape? Knowing this, Hollywood fuels the masses with films they can leave behind at the theater, which is a radical departure from the ‘60s and ‘70s, when movies were widely discussed on an intellectual level. The surprise "Precious" offers is that it’s that rare film that has risen above the daily chatter to create a debate. So, it should be celebrated for that.

Watching “Precious,” you have to wonder--does it offer this year’s inconvenient truth? For some, it does. Others will tell you it doesn’t. What’s key is this: While “Precious” isn’t perfect--elements are forced--those elements nevertheless are overcome by the sheer force of Mo'Nique and Sidibe’s searing performances, which are worthy of Academy consideration and which overcome a story that sometimes is too pat and seems designed for white liberals. About that last part, the fact that Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry produced the movie only adds to the discussion.

For all of these reasons, “Precious” must be seen. It offers that rare opportunity to talk about how blacks are viewed in today’s movies--the main portal for popular culture--and whether Hollywood is doing them a service or a disservice.

Grade: A-

View the trailer for the movie "Precious" below. What are you thoughts?

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  1. Sharon said...

    Amazing movie! I enjoyed your review of it. Mo'Nique is going to get nominated; I can feel it!


  2. Diana said...

    I agree that going to the movies is more as an escape for people. We are more likely to go to see something that is thrilling, funny or adventurous before we go to see something that is debasing or depressing like this. I would rather see a good documentary than watch someone go thru hell in a movie unless it is telling someone's true life story- then its more compelling to get people to see it.
    While on some level you know these things are happening in the world it lacks the attraction to know since its not a true story and therefore personally I would be reluctant to see it no matter how good the performaces are in it.
    Why doesn't hollywood recognize that in these hard economic times they dont want to watch people go thru hell unless it exposes some inner truth that needs to be recognized, talked about and resolved somehow in society.

  3. Admin said...

    Hi Diana--

    That's what "Precious" does. It does expose a truth that needs to be recognized, talked about and resolved. I hope you see it. It's pretty powerful.