• Precious


    (Watched on DVD from Netflix - NB)

    In what could be seen as veering edgily close to exploitation, the makers of Precious seem to pile it on the main character. But the earnestness with which the story’s told fights against any negative criticism. It’s as if the filmmakers felt that this was the one good chance they’d have to tell this type of story so they crammed in as much as possible. Indeed, having Oprah and Tyler Perry on board as exec producers provide a rather hefty punch, too. Credit is due to director Lee Daniels and star Gabourey Sidibe for pulling it off without feeling like an after-school special.

    The movie revolves around the put-upon Precious (Sidibe), a name that seems to mock her situation even further in this world. She’s obese, raped by her father repeatedly, and has 3 kids from him, one of whom’s mentally handicapped. Oh and apparently ol’ dad was HIV positive. And mom (Mo’Nique, in a pretty damn outstanding performance here) absolutely hates her, beyond her use as the right wing stereotypical welfare sponge to keep mom in bad soda and cigarettes.

    Precious doesn’t seem to react much, taking much of the abuse sullenly as victims of such circumstances often do. She retreats into a fantasy world of acceptance, where she’s admired for her beauty by all around her. She buys into the commercial dream of success that screams around her, if only to survive her horrendous situations.

    Soon, however, she gets out of the public education system and finds a sympathetic creative writing teacher (Paula Patton). As she’s able to finally externalize what she’s been burying all this time she begins to come into her own, taking responsibility where she needs to and accepting help wherever she can. Some helpful souls along the way - social workers and classmates - provide a level of face-value acceptance that give her a positive environment to work from. This readies her for the final showdown with her oppressive, hate-filled mother in front of the social worker (a very dressed-down Mariah Carey sporting something like a Long Island accent). The film then leaves her at that point of release, demonstrating that she now, finally, has lived up to all the hope and hopefulness her name really means.

    The BD from Netflix would never play on my machine, for some weird reason - we went through them 3x before opting to just get the DVD. We watched one of the extras, a documentary on getting the film off the ground. The portions interviewing the book’s author, Sapphire, are good but director Daniels seems to be towing a company line while trying to artistically defend how much abuse is heaped upon the main character.

    Rating: B+