Monday, 7 December 2009

Precious: Much Too Much

There’s quite much that has been said about Precious since its premiere on the festival circuit and its eventual cinematic premiere. To an extent, it always sucks getting a movie so late in the game; and you have to wonder if your feelings were influenced by spoilers or other reviews. Who knows? I can’t give myself a psychological analysis and determine what did or did not influence me. What I can do is give my feelings on said film. So here goes.

Precious tells the story of Clarice Precious Jones. She is an obese seventeen year old living with her abusive mother. Precious’ father [her mother’s boyfriend] is also the father of her toddler daughter and currently unborn child. That’s the crisis. Precious becomes a candidate for an alternative education programme and has intermittent meetings with a welfare officer. Her mother’s abuse becomes heightened with the birth of her second child – that’s the conflict.
I found Precious to be an imperfect film. Although they may, fans of Precious need not take offence, I’m just offering my take. My biggest issue with the film is Geoffrey Fletcher’s screenplay and Lee Daniels’ direction. I suppose those are big things so taking issue with them is essentially taking issue with the entire film. I suppose I am. I’m not certain if perhaps it’s the screenplay that’s the bigger problem of the two. Although I’m not the first to say it, I must assert that the lack of subtlety in this story really annoyed me. Those dream sequences are a big part of that. The very fact that they’re written and; their eventual realisation on the screen represent my least favourite parts of the film. First of all, it’s as if Fletcher and Daniels think that the audience is ignorant. Does Precious want to be a star? By all means let’s show that. Does she want to sing in the choir? Ditto for that. And on and on and on. That’s called overkill. What’s more these dream sequences come at some moments you’d wish that wouldn’t segue into the imaginary. Precious gets thrown down on the sidewalk [not as graphic as it sounds] or her mother pelts her with a blunt object. She falls. And we segue into a dream. Why not show the humiliation? Why avert the story from the horror that’s supposed to ensue and then move into a dream sequence that shows us what we’ve already established?
But, don’t feel that I’m talking down to Precious. I wouldn’t dare. It takes as much effort to make a bad film as it does to make a good film; and for the record Precious is not a bad film. I haven’t seen Weiez, Mulligan, Cornish, Mirren and a few other important Actress contenders, but Sidibe looks impressive from where I’m standing. Not my favourite thus far, but it’s good nonetheless. I’ll admit, she gets annoying sometimes when her speech is so garbled it become unintelligible. I understand that Precious is uneducated, but there’s a thin line between showing your character and being abstruse.
Now on to the supporting women. Mo’Nique as Precious’ mother is good. Quite good. But I can’t find myself calling it great as others have. I feel that I expected just a little more – not in terms of performance perhaps, but maybe screen time. I did not find any fault in her performances but it never reached that level of excellence, and at the end of the day that’s not half bad. I blame the screenplay. Mariah Carey as a welfare officer is better than the detractors of her cause, but perhaps not as sensational as her fans. If she’s nominated I won’t be shocked, but if she’s not I won’t be either. I like Mariah, but if they so badly wanted to nominate a pop star. They’ve had chances before. Deserving or not, they’ve had chances. Paula Patton however has turned into something of an unsung hero[ine]. It’s a bit sad that nothing has been said of her performance, but I found her to be the real find of the film. Perhaps not as eclectic as Mo’Nique but certainly wrought with potential.
In the end I never felt emotionally involved in Precious. It never was graphic enough for me, and that pisses me off. I sound a bit gratuitous which is ironic in line of recent reviews, but there was just this incongruity that threw me. Then there’s the fact that this is closer to a Dangerous Minds themed story since more of the film occurs in the 'heavenly' room of Ms. Rains – complete with a golden hue to mark Precious’ first entrance. Subtle? Not so much. The film has the potential to shock, maybe not offensively so – but it could have been this harsh, nitty-gritty, reality check for the audience. But other than one horrible scene, that’s not as horrible as it seems, Precious skirts around those deeper issues settling for the easier issues that make the audience comfortable. And that final confession at the end, which should move me does anything but. Precious was fine; but in the end not precious enough to tempt me.


Univarn said...

I had similar problems with Frozen River last year. It seemed to me that each time Frozen River really went for the gut, to really hammer home the consequences of these peoples actions it would quickly turn tail and sprint away, leaving me indifferent, and never buying anything that bad will happen.

Granted I think this will be one of those movies that I admire from a distance but dislike up close (sort of like me and No Country for Old Men).

Alex in Movieland said...

Why are you being so generous with the rating? :) Reading what you wrote, I'd expect less than that.

It's getting clearer to me that the emotional connection with this film is the make or break. You didn't have it. I'm not sure how I'll feel. I've seen that trailer so many times that I almost feel like I've seen the movie already... :)

but I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.

Mo'Nique might not be as brilliant, but let me doubt that Anna Kendrick is better. :D

[OT: because it bugs me. it's Arkin, not Alda in your Best Supporting Actor post] :)

Anonymous said...

Having seen Up In The Air and Precious, Mo'Nique is miles away from Anna Kendrick.

Why? Well, I'll be writing a performance review soon on it :]

joe burns said...

I really liked this film. Yes,the dream sequences bothered me,but the performances were great. I hope that Monique wins. Off-topic,but did you see my Guess Who's Coming to Dinner review?

Jude said...


Robert said...

I haven't seen Precious yet, unfortunately, but in "Push", the book it's based on, the dream sequences are actually written in - when her father is molesting her is where I remember her transitioning to dreams "to escape", as they put it. It made sense in writing, but then again some things just don't translate perfectly from page to screen. Hm!

Then again, I really can't judge since I haven't seen the movie...I just thought I'd mention that it was that way in the book.