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Movie Review: Precious

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Cornered by poverty, darkness, Harlem, flatiron buildings, and close-set eyes, Precious survives. Lee Daniels directs Gabourey Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique, and Mariah Carey, among others, who make up the stellar cast of Precious, based on the book Push by Sapphire. The screenplay closely follows the book, which is set in 1987 Harlem.

After sweeping Sundance, Precious opens in theatres everywhere giving audiences across America today and days to come a peek at a real contender. Daniels does not play loose with the facts and the narrative of the book. Precious narrates her story in her own words. She tries to tell herself and others what happened at the hands of her mother and father. The sexual abuse is downplayed in the film but is evident and obvious. Precious' transformation from illiterate to GED candidate is not clearly laid out. Her academic struggles are a blur. And the director chooses instead to open a window into the young women who attend the Harlem alternative school under the tutelage of the soulful and beautiful teacher, Miss Blue Rain (Paula Patton). Miss Rain is the first person to show Precious she is lovable and not just a lump of coal in a seat who can't read, write, speak, or spell English. Precious admits she is not good at anything but cooking and escapism.

Black Precious is the white girl in the mirror, who would rather be normal. This is also the dilemma of director Daniels — how to convey that the heroine is not normal. He uses handheld camera techniques and close-ups on glamour-less faces of familiar stars. They are not their normal glamorous selves and neither is the girl they are trying to help. He nails the classroom scenes where backbiting and bitching lurk. The camaraderie among the students of Miss Blue Rain is special. They laugh at Precious behind her back but befriend her in the end.

Daniels alternates the dark side of life for Precious with scenes of success and a light-skinned boyfriend that invade life's rough patches. Pig’s feet cooking in a pot close-ups serve as a metaphor involving coercion and force that Precious must cook, serve, and eat without complaint. Daniels keeps it stark. However, the cutaway moments he employs are brilliant and you forget that they are the defense mechanisms Precious relies on to survive. The film runs 110 minutes and is rated a strong R for language and depictions of sexual abuse.

Okay, predictions: Lee Daniels directed Halle Berry in Monster's Ball and there are some parallels here. Mo'Nique, who plays Mary (the mother), is stunning and powerful. Daniels has directed her and potentially Sidibe right into nominations for their roles. Does the film bear the hallmarks of an Oscar nomination? I would have to say yes, it does.

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About Heloise

  • Terry Nelder

    Well said,
    You hit the nail on the head.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/heloise Heloise

    If you are vegetarian I just posted how I create vegetarian “turkey and dressing” at the Trough. “How to Finesse Vegetarian Thanksgiving”

    Heloise

  • Marie

    I think that this movie was very demeaning to African Americans. There was too much profanity and it didn’t end very good. Did’t like it at all

  • Shorter

    I thought that this was going to be a good movie. I was wrong. It was very degrading to African Americans and just because something is based on true does not have to be shown to the whole world. Too much profanity and no plot. Very bad ending. Didn’t leave young girls with very much hope.

  • Anonymous

    I believe Precious was a somewhat-good movie,there were many harsh parts,but you had to figure out the true meaning-Precious was physically and emotionally abused,but she was able to prosper in the end–in the beginning she was illiterate and in the end she was able to read and write very well. I still can’t find out how Mo’Nique found in her heart to play that role; it definately wasn’t her! I rate Precious a 4 star!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/heloise Heloise

    Lots of AA are not liking Precious. The book is really full of profanity and sex talk–profanity alert. Therefore the film would have to include that too. Fair enough. I looked at from a critics POV and that’s why I think that there will be awards for this flic. As one who has taught inner city science the kids are illiterate in SCIENCE! And hate science. They also use profanity as a defense mechanism.

    Look at Dreamgirls which won big. There was no profanity in it but it had lots of stuff that is demeaning yet much a part of black culture.

    There is a large black middle class we know that. But there is a huge underbelly too. Also, no one is mentioning that this was set in 1986 Harlem that’s 20 years ago. Things have changed. Look at the movie Gangster, that was a true tale. But lots of profanity and sex and drugs. Did black people embrace that film too? Not sure. I thought it was good but it was NOT critically acclaimed as Precious is IMO.

    What do we learn from Precious the book and film? Since I reviewed both I think we learn that this is somewhat the bottom of the barrel in terms of her illiterate life. It is NOT far removed from my life. My mother was illiterate, and came from married parents. But due to poverty in NOLA she quit school in third grade. Hell, I did not know she could not read or write until I was grown. That too is typical. Therefore, my siblings and I were not cut out to go to college and get grad degrees. But we did because we went to Catholic schools where we were not abused.

    This movie has lots of lessons: illiteracy among AA, and physical and sexual abuse among all classes and peoples.

    Heloise

  • Claudine

    The movie precious was a disaster to say the least. I was so bored. With all the money Oprah and Tyler has, you would think they would have done better than this junk.It looked more like a cheap documentary than anything else. Every word that comes out of their mouths is cursing. I even saw people walking out in the middle of the film. I personally, did not shed one tear. However, I thought Paula Patton and Mariah did very well. Such a bore! I’m sorry I wasted my five bucks plus the 17 miles I drove to get to the theater.

  • http://blogcritics.org/video/article/movie-review-precious2/ Debbi

    Saw Precious w/my daughter earlier today…cannot believe this did not speak to each and every person who saw it. Absolutely amazing performances by all~Mo’Nique was exceptional and BELIEVABLE! This IS life for many folks….and it’s high time this dark, ugly secret was brought out from the shadows. This gave young women MUCH hope…did you NOT watch ’till the end????

  • KiiRA

    this movie was crappy it had no story line and it was off topic numerous times. it was demeaning to african americans and it really upsets me for how black people can deface themselves like that. although i like mo i felt like she really didnt have to work hard to play the role of precious mother all she had to do was sit in a chair and cuss. As an 15 year old African American teenager i feel like our race needs to give it a rest b/c its not working, and also i feel like america is nothing but a suck up when it comes to the african american culture. Hip-Hop is dead and everything else we do. we need to stop demeaning ourselves and re-defining ourselves.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/heloise Heloise

    Claudine, Oprah and Tyler did not make the movie they put money behind its promotion. This was not a big-budget film.

    I was right in terms of movie making, acting that movie will continue to garner more awards. That’s the way it is. The subject matter is very real. Incest may be more prevalent among whites than blacks, but blacks are doing bad things to women just the same.

    To others who think this movie is demeaning to blacks that’s too bad. It may be over the top in terms of the mother’s reaction to Precious, her child, but incest is real and so are black men who leave their families only to make new ones and never support either one.