Realistic. Brutal. Frightening. Humorous. Hopeful.
Those are the words that come to mind when I think about this film. This is the movie, the “black film” I think we’ve been waiting on for some years now. The one that is just as it is… a good film overall.
The story is about an overweight and illiterate teen named Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), whom lives on welfare with her monstrous, chain smoking mother (MoNique) and a number of cats in a small apartment in Harlem circa 1987. Precious is pregnant on her second child, both conceived via horrific circumstances, and is still in junior high school, and has occasional daydreams/delusions during idle or traumatic moments. Because of these circumstances, she is transferred into an alternative learning program. At this alternative school she meets Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) and takes the slow and agonizing steps to personal liberation from her life’s troubles. Along the way she’ll encounter a number of individuals whom each have for her what she and not many others before ever had… her best interests in mind.
That short description I don’t even think could ever do this film justice. From the opening titles to the end credits, this film lets you know that you are about to go on a true journey of life. PRECIOUS is not like anything I have seen before of say the last 10-15 years, and its almost throwback because you don’t see movies like this anymore. It reminds me of a LEAN ON ME or BOYZ N DA HOOD, and to an extent DO THE RIGHT THING as far as how the film is presented. The film looks muted and desaturated, and quite ugly for the most part while the daydreams of Precious are colorful, loud and glossed over like a music video, giving great contrasts and really pulling reality out for a moment.
The storyline plays out beautifully and makes no apologies nor pulls any punches… literally. Though produced by Tyler Perry, this is NOTHING like his films (though I don’t see why it shouldn’t be, personally)… We first feel sorry for Precious’ situation as she trudges through extreme circumstances to survive in a world she can’t connect to and then we root for her during the arduous path to freedom. The ending is a wonderful payoff that doesn’t take her from rags to riches, but it does leave the leads in a happily ever after despite the circumstances. The film is delivered very well and director Lee Daniels, and the producers, Mr. Perry and Oprah Winfrey, deserve kudos and a bag of chips.
Ms. Sidibe is a true actress in her role and definitely carries this film to the finish line. Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz have small and extremely pivotal roles as a social worker and nurse, respectively. They aren’t caricatures of their true life rockstar selves, yet they are actors in their roles. You’ll forgot about Ms. Carey’s GLITTER brush after her wonderfully understated performance. Mr. Kravitz offers the extra starpower as a guy who just wants to help and they’re all people you likely know in some form or another. Ms. Patton is a wonder as the determined teacher with a unique curriculum, which drives the film’s narrative and her presence in the film. Funny to think she hasn’t been in very many films either, but the future can be bright for her. However, the stand out is MoNique.
First, no one expected it. Second, no one expected it from MoNique who has starred in some really BAD movies. Third its the type of role that makes others look at comedians as an actor… i.e. see Tom Hanks or Bill Murray. Her character of Mary is a fully dimensional and realized person which makes her all the more scary. The character is a product of a defeated life and we get glimpses of what she used to be like from old pictures and it made me sad to see the end result: a chain smoking, all loathing psychopath. From her intro scene, an extremely unnerving and uncomfortable scene with an infant, to the climatic encounter with Precious and her social worker, MoNique delivers what they call a tour-de-force of acting and becomes her character. Not since Charlize Theron in MONSTER or Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT have I seen such a scarred and unrelenting screen villian. She’d scare off Nurse Ratched even…!
I would and do recommend this film for anyone seeking a good film. This is the one you are looking for and one of the best of 2009.
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