Winner - Best Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique)

Winner - Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

LIONSGATE (2009)

Director: Lee Daniels

Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz

Precious isn’t a total gloomfest, even if this review makes it out to be. Yes, we are dealing with a movie centring on an obese, black teenager who is illiterate, is beaten, raped (and worse to come because of it), has a child with Downs Sydrome to care for and becomes homeless during the course of the movie – however, this movie is about hope. The hope that perseverance, support and love can remove the oppressive restraints bound upon the young Precious. That hope at times is almost cruelly extinguished, however the flame flickers on and on.

 

Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, the movie has been adapted deftly by Lee Daniels, a bleak looking feel good story handled well enough to shine through.

In her first role, Gabourey Sidibe is self-assured and confident throughout and delivers a grand performance of a young lady who has the world on her shoulders, and seemingly no end in sight. Her ability to convey emotions through contorted facial expressions, squinted eyes, a bark and a whisper is great and really holds the film together. The role isn’t played as a petulant teenager who feels the world owes them, in fact is the complete opposite – she wants a way out. Sidibe received an Academy Award nomination for her performance, and rightly so – it had almost everything and drove the narrative throughout.

Mo’Nique, however, thundered towards the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her towering performance as Mary. An incredibly convincing performance, scarily convincing even – the bitterness and malice is displayed incredibly, and the vulnerability that cracks towards the movies conclusion is touching and believable (but far too late). The role is performed wonderfully, she is a vacuum of hope and positivity, an animal, a seemingly heartless beast (see: TV, staircase, Precious and baby Abdul) her imposing performances were felt heavily in each scene.

Paula Patton bought an earnest performance to the film, and at no point felt out of depth against the group she was teaching. Additionally, stripped of the glamour and diva glitz, Mariah Carey is a great fit for the feisty, strong psychologist. Lenny Kravitz on the other hand, well, he really didn’t add much to the movie. He could’ve been replaced by anyone else I’d say (other than me)

The chemistry between the classmates was well executed and was a real highlight of the movie. Not just the rapport they all had, but the humour that stemmed from it – much needed humour, and humour that felt right within the boundaries of the story. Far from the cliché troupe of addicts and the needy, the reasons for them all being there were credible and as a whole, strayed from becoming a group of stereotypes (the supporting stereotypes)

Is there a commentary going on within the film? Perhaps. The scenes of Precious dreaming to be slim, white and a model – picturing this to be her ticket to a happy life, her desire for a “light skinned boyfriend”, and the depiction of African Americans throughout the movie at times borders on stereotype (unfairly) can be disconcerting to watch at times during the film. The uplifting ending is still tempered by the fact that Precious’ issues will not go away, and they are still there, however in a movie swathed in grim shades of grey, any light is appreciated.  Is Ruth a reflection of what Precious is supressing? I’d say so.

The images on show throughout are powerful – a young woman being beaten by her mother, her mother’s simple need for cigarettes, incestual rape scenes, the treatment of a Down’s Syndrome child. The film however, is a fine piece of movie making and a good adaptation of seemingly unadaptable source material. Through the depression is the symbol of hope, whether it ever becomes fully appreciated is another thing, but it can shine through.

Well worth watching, a strong experience.

August 31st 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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