My Review of “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”

I was initially reluctant to even see the film “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”.

I kept reading/hearing about how gritty and realistic it was. I heard the scenes of violence were raw and leave you uncomfortable and cold. So of course, why would I even want to hand over my money for an ultimately depressing experience?

Well I ended up seeing the film finally, and when it ended I wondered? Was this the same great and gripping film I kept hearing about?

While the themes in the film can be uncomfortable for many viewers, I found myself thinking the film did not go hard enough. “Precious” is simply a by the numbers film which is saved by a great performance by Monique.

The story is set in 1987 and revolves around Precious. A poor, unpopular, overweight girl from Harlem, Precious is behind on her education level and has a very bad relationship with her mother Mary. Mary is both verbally and physically abusive to Precious and Precious unfortunately was also sexually abused and raped by her father. The repeated rapes resulted in her having her first child who also has Down’s Syndrome and left her pregnant with another.

Reading the paragraph above, you would think I was crazy to say the film didn’t go hard enough. But it really doesn’t. The dramatic scenes in the film are often quickly interrupted by Precious’ fantasy sequences which take away from their impact. It’s hard to feel bad about Precious being picked on and pushed into the ground when 10 seconds later, we see her fantasizing about dancing and blowing kisses while Queen Latifah’s “Come Into My House” plays.

This film just didn’t work for me, and there were way too many times I felt the sequences interfered with the drama. I place the blame for this awkward, disconnect on Director Lee Daniels. Daniels lack of real skill as a director is apparent throughout the film. I don’t know if it was done intentionally, but as Precious’ father rapes her, there is a quick cut of frying chicken.

Seriously?

The film progresses and hits some pretty formulaic beats. Precious is sent to a program to get her GED. We of course meet her classmates that she bonds with. And we also meet a teacher who cares too much.We all know where this goes. Precious eventually becomes smarter as she progresses through the program and starts realizing that there is more to life than what she knew.

But then it seems that more problems are piled on to “poor” Precious. But they are all done so quickly one after another that it’s like, what else are we going to have happen to this girl? It’s somewhat manipulative in it’s attempt to make the viewers feel sorry for her. She is hit with so many messed up situations, and it would have been more effective to focus on a few of the really messed up issues instead. You know, the same issues that are interrupted by fantasy sequences that the audience I saw the film with laughed at. And they shouldn’t have been laughing at all.

If the sequences were filmed in a way that you saw how this poor girl needed a serious escape from reality, the laughing wouldn’t have happened. I was also disappointed that one very big issue concerning her health (that should have been a very dramatic moment in the film) is just given no real emphasis whatsoever. It’s played much like “Oh yeah Precious, by the way you have a horrible incurable disease… Have a good one!” No impact. No power. A moment filmed so awkward that the film finally lost me.

It’s frustrating to wonder what this film would have looked like in the hands of a more skilled director.

With all my criticisms above, you would think I hated this movie. But the fact is I did not. It’s just average. And like I said, the movie is somewhat saved by the acting. Mo’Nique is devastating in her portrayal of Precious’ mother Mary. Mo’Nique is so evil, so brutal, and so messed up in this role. You hate her character’s guts. Mary is a real life monster brought to life by Mo’Nique’s superb acting. I was shocked and did not know she had that kind of acting in her. The first scene where she verbally abuses Precious is so real that as it goes on you want her to just stop.

But that was probably the only real moment in the film where the director did his job in making you feel uncomfortable and sad for Precious. Mo’Nique’s final scene in the film will most definitely be her Oscar Reel. It is that good.

I also noticed something and I may be off base, but why was everyone who comes into Precious’ life to help her is either white, light skinned, or bi racial?

Newcommer Gabourey Sidibe does an OK job as Precious. Her narration is often engaging, and sometimes funny, and she is given good moments as an actor to shine. Overall she handles carrying this film well and her scene where she visits her mother after having her second baby was another moment in the film where the movie showed the promise of where it could actually go.

Paula Patton does a serviceable job as her teacher Ms. Rain. And the small roles by Lenny Kravitz and Sherri Shepherd were well done. But I have to say, despite what people are saying, Mariah Carey was distracting in her role. She isn’t terrible at all as an actor here. But she is  just distracting. You don’t pay attention to her character, you are more focused on how ugly they have made her look. They should have went with someone else.

Overall, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” is not a bad movie. It’s just a film that had a lot more promise. It could have been an unforgettable and brutal experience like the film “Requiem for a Dream”. But “Precious” is a Lifetime Movie dressed in R Rated clothes.

Thankfully, the film has a few memorable performances that elevate it.

My Grade:

Direction: C

Acting: B

Overall: C+

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