Cinema Mishmash

A personal and random look at movies, past and present

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Precious

October 14th, 2009 · No Comments

If one of the independent film organizations had an award for the cast who most allowed themselves to look bad on film, there is no question but that the award would go toprecious Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. (And yes, the length of the film’s official title is annoying.) The festival centerpiece in the Chicago International Film Festival (and the New York Film Festival), Lee Daniel’s latest film not only features a truly remarkable central performance from newcomer Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe as Precious, several celebrity members of the supporting cast are almost not recognizable. Most notable is Mo’Nique, a beautiful woman who plays Precious’ mom, character whose physical ugliness surrounds a soul that seems extensively, irreparably damaged by poverty and ignorance. You may also not recognize Mariah Carey as a social worker and Lenny Kravitz as the nurse, both of whom also showing considerable crossover acting talent.

But the story belongs to Precious, an obese, illiterate teenager with a propensity for math who is pregnant with her second child and whose flat affect seems to be her last defense mechanism against a truly horrific home life and abusive history. Sound like a great way to spend a night at the cinema? If you’re thinking no, you may just be surprised at how compelling an worthwhile you will find this story of hope, one which is told with realism and a lack of sentiment. And while it might be unkind to criticize bold storytelling for not going far enough, I can’t help but be disappointed by Daniel’s decision to play it a little to safe here. Granted, a story like this is just about as uncommercial as it gets. But I felt more power from the film’s trailer than the film itself. In the post-screening discussion of the film (I can’t call it a Q&A since no questions from the audience were taken), Daniels admitted that he toned down some of the more difficult aspects of the source novel. I wonder though, if he did so with regret, because I think an even bolder film would have made for an even better one.

Tags: Capsule · Drama · Ensemble

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