Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Life isn't always precious
By Edward Copeland
Director Lee Daniels exercised intuitive intelligence with most of the stylish touches he adds to his film of Precious or, as its gargantuan title refers to it, Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire (Does this mean I now have to refer to Nosferatu based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker?). Anyway, Daniels' flourishes prove quite welcome relief in what could be an otherwise depressing tale, though even when it's played straight, it does manage to earn some uplift.
Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe plays the title character, a large 16-year-old girl living in 1987 Harlem, but still in junior high and currently pregnant with her second child by her now-dead father while living with her mountain-of-hate mother Mary (Mo'Nique). Though she still can't read, she does have some math skills, but her pregnancy gets her evicted from her public school but a teacher suggests an alternative school for Precious, though her mother desperately opposes the idea, thinking it threatens her welfare and that Precious should just give up on school and get on welfare herself.
Sidibe makes a solid debut and gives a touching performance as a child who has been abused and put down all her life, though she certainly has her dreams, often displayed in colorful fantasies of fashion shows and dancing. The movie's biggest misstep comes when Precious and her mom sit watching Sophia Loren in Two Women and Precious imagines herself and her mother in the film's black and white setting, complete with wigs, costumes and speaking in Italian but with subtitles where Mary is abusing her as normal, but with a docile face. It's so out of place, I actually laughed out loud and it breaks the film's mood for a moment.
While Mo'Nique has been devouring practically every award in sight, I think it built in me an expectation for more. She's quite good, but I figured I'd see more scenes of her and larger moments. I found myself drawn more to the quieter performance of Paula Patton as the alternative school teacher who takes an interest in Precious.