Sunday, November 22, 2009

Precious (2009)

I'm sure you've heard all the praise you can handle when it comes to Precious. It was all the rage at Sundance. Tyler Perry and Oprah both back it. This year's Oscars are all but spoken for. Everyone and their mother is talking about this movie. And you know what? It's a film that that deserves its praise. Along with Mary and Max and The Hurt Locker, Lee Daniel's melodramiatic gut-puncher sits confidently in my Top Three of '09. For those fearing that their viewings will be tainted by "overhype," a cinematic disease that hurt movies like Fight Club for me and Paranormal Activity for others, then stop reading here. This post is gettin' gushy.

Flipping through the Sundance schedule book, I came across the commanding picture to the right. Immediately, I picked out Push (as it was named back then) as the Must-See film of the festival. My hunches aren't often right when it comes to which movies film juries are going to choose (Kidman/The Hours over Lane/Unfaithful? Are you kidding me?) but as screenings of Push began to return wholly positive feedback, it looked like my pick was on its way.

As you may or may not know, it went on to win both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, only the third film in Sundance history to do so. As Oscar murmurs begin to circulate, the word Precious keeps getting placed next to "Best Actress," "Best Supporting Actress," "Best Director," "Best Picture," among others. I wouldn't be surprised if those pairings are still being made come gametime.

Gabourey Sidibe is a force to be reckoned with. Rumors started circulating, attacking her acting abilities, saying that she was simply playing herself (to a more extreme version, of course). But these were bullshit and as Sidibe started hitting the campaign trail, this became crystal clear. Donning the face of a warrior, the bubbily and humorous Sidibe, transforms into this character so full of hurt and pain that she involuntarily trusts no one. She holds the presence and the talent to carry a film like Precious on her shoulders but luckily for the viewer, she didn't have to.

Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer) did the unthinkable when he cast the film’s supporting roles. First, he brought on a comedian, Mo’Nique, to play the wretched villain. Then he cast two singers (one, a Worst Actress Razzie "winner") to play substantial characters. Lenny Kravitz plays a nurse who bonds with Precious after she delivers her baby and Mariah Carey plays a social worker who swears to help the standoffish teenager.

As unprobable as successful results seemed, all of the pieces come together and really deliver one hell of a film. Carey is almost unrecognizable in her role and ends every doubt about her acting chops that Glitter set in place. Mo’Nique’s performance as the abusive mother is untouchable. Thankfully, she got the praise she deserved when she won Sundance's Special Jury Prize for Acting.

A second viewing today enforced what I've been saying since January: Push/Precious is one of the best movies of the year and while it may not be for everyone, it certainly was for the hundreds of people who packed that screenings that I've attended.

3 comments:

Daniel Getahun said...

Let it be known that your celebration of this movie in January has been the sole driver for me to see it for the past 10 months. Honestly I took your recommendation and ran with it, avoiding everything else I could until I was sitting in the theater. Even my fiance was so flummoxed as to why I was anticipating it so much, and had to explain that you had called it so early in the year.

So now, after having seen it? Well I'm almost with you. I certainly celebrate the fact that it was made, but I don't know if I can celebrate it on its own merit. I'm nervous about the public's reaction to it and the prevailing opinion that this is some kind of happy ending that can allow us to get on with our lives. The truth is that this should remain a scar on our souls (how's that for foreboding) that stays with us and changes how we live. But I'm afraid people will move on to the next without considering the importance of this story...

In any case, thanks for getting behind it from the beginning. You were on board before Oprah!

elgringo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
elgringo said...

Thanks for the great comment. I'm glad to see my hype-mongering resulted in at least one Precious ticket being sold.

As far as the ending, it's not that happy. In fact, one might take a "hopeless" feel from it. Even though her situation's improved, it won't be that way for long. A less happy ending might make people come away with a There's-Nothing-I-Can-Do-to-Help attitude, which I think a lot of people are feeling anyway with this ending.

Your average "Watch Because it's Nominated" filmgoer will hopefully have their souls scarring experience, if for nothing besides that this will be the roughest film they've had to watch since "Boys Don't Cry."