How exactly do you go about reviewing a movie about a poor overweight black girl, abused by her mother and pregnant with her second child, by her father? Is it even possible to criticize it without people thinking you’re about to go drown kittens afterward?
Well fortunately for me, I won’t have to deal with such scorn, as I enjoyed the film. Well, maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the right word, with the aforementioned subject matter. I don’t think it’s God’s gift to inspirational cinema like many do, but I was particularly struck by many aspects of the film, but most noticeably, a series of powerful performances by actors I had no idea had it in them.
It’s easy to initially dismiss Precious, as you can say, “any movie about subject matter that intense is going to be critically acclaimed no matter what.” While that may be true, and it’s a theory I privately held going into the film, there is just no denying how powerful the story and the acting within it truly is. If it were just a sad parade of rape and abuse and disease, it would be almost exploitative, trying to get people to empathize by just piling shit on top of shit until the main character can’t even stand any more. But in the end, the heart and soul performances of both Gabby Sidibe and Mo’Nique, give the film real emotional weight, rather than using cheap tricks to win the audience’s sympathy.
Mo’Nique? It’s like if Dane Cook showed up and played a role to perfection in Schindler’s List or something.
It’s really the acting that drives this film home, and I expect a slew of award nominations all around. I had NO IDEA that the woman I had just watched counsel Precious was Mariah Carey, and even less that her nurse was Lenny Kravitz. But Gabby Sidibe, a complete unknown, and Mo’Nique, who I don’t think has ever been taken seriously by anyone, will blow you away, whether you believe they will or not. Whenever they’re onscreen, the movie doesn’t even feel like a movie, it feels like real life, which makes the hopelessness of the situation all the more tangible.
However, I think the movie breaks from character a bit during the “special school” portions of the film, where Precious’ teacher is the superhot Paula Patton and her class consists of a bunch of also superhot black and latino girls. Now, this wouldn’t normally be anything to call out, but when your movie is focusing on “realism” and all of a sudden morbidly obese Precious is in a room full of unexpectedly good looking girls for half the movie, it doesn’t really fit with the mood of the film, and you once again remember that you’re just watching a movie.
I’m sorry, I just can’t relate, seeing as I’m incredibly attractive.
And what is this movie trying to teach us exactly? Through all the heartbreak and tears, it’s not really clear. Help out a less fortunate stranger? Maybe, but I don’t think there’s quite enough hope found in the film, and that veers it off in the direction of a Requiem for a Dream. Yeah, I sure as shit didn’t want to do drugs after watching that movie, but I also wanted to curl up into a ball and die. There are very few “redemptive” moments found in the film for me, as Precious learning to read and finally getting a Christmas present seems to be the highlight of things. I was terrified the film was going to end on a horrendously tragic note, but thankfully my already pulled heartstrings were released before they could break completely.
Is it a “necessary” film to watch? I don’t know. The story of a poor, obese, raped, abused girl isn’t exactly a Sunday afternoon at the box office most people would enjoy, and the emotional weight of it all is just absolutely crushing the entire time. I’m not really sure I learned anything I didn’t know before, other than I have been incredibly lucky in my own life, and unfortunately I’m not that good of a person where seeing this has made me run down and volunteer at my local youth center. It was an experience to be sure, and I’m ultimately glad I saw it, but that being said, I for no reason will ever feel the need to see this again.
I predict you’ll be hearing more about Precious in February once Oscar season rolls around. Expect a nom for Sidibe, and maybe even one for Mo’Nique. I think they deserve it, but I’m not willing to credit the film itself as infallible.
4 out of 5 stars
Sean Paul wasn’t available?