Sunday, November 08, 2009

Precious Review

Precious has arrived... at least in three four cities: NY, LA, Atlanta and Chicago. Next week it expands to Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, San Francisco, and Houston. I've reviewed it for Towleroad, so if you've had a chance to see it have your say in the comments.

You're barely a reel into Lee Daniel's Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) before you begin to realize that maybe Job didn't have it so bad after all. Claireece "Precious" Jones is suffering. She's obese, she's a welfare mother of a disabled child, she's pregnant again, kicked out of high school, her parents abuse her, neighborhood kids taunt her. She's illiterate on top of that... as the twee incorrectly spelled opening credits foreshadow.

Before too long, though, "Precious" (Gabourey Sidibe) has enrolled in an alternate school for girls who are slipping through the cracks. She blossoms, as much as a continually trampled living thing can, under the guidance of a new teacher (Paula Patton). The further she steps away from her nightmare home life, the more she begins to see new possible futures. It's already hell at home but her abusive mentally ill mother Mary (Mo'Nique) is ready to drag her to the next circle when she realizes her meal ticket is transforming into a girl that might actually fly away.

read the rest at Towleroad


Andrew L. said...

Just got back from a screening: Mo'Nique, Best Supporting Actress of 2009.

(Rated-R version: "Mo'Nique is the best motherfucking supporting actress of two-thousand-motherfucking-nine, and if you motherfuckers have a motherfucking problem with it, then you need to shut your motherfucking bumba ras clot. Heeeeeeey!!")

Rob said...

Four cities.

NY, LA, Chicago, Atlanta

josh said...

i loved the film. there was just so many excellent things about it, but the triumph was from the performances. i think both monique and gabourey sidibe are frontrunner for best supporting actress and best actress, and i have to say i think monique played the best villain since the joker in the dark knight.

Murtada said...

Saw it last night. Thought it was worth the hype. Moving, sobering, hopeful, heavy drama and fantastic performances all around.

On another note I'm looking at EW's holiday movie calendar and November is disappointing in terms of Oscar movies. Only Broken Embraces and the Road seem exciting to me. No way I;m catching Blind Side. Any suggestions? Help can't wait another month for Oscar movies.

Robert said...

isn't it just horribly unprofessional to assume you'll hate a movie before you even see it? Thank goodness I'm not a professional. Seriously, something about this film rubs me the wrong way.

Nathaniel's review gives me hope that it won't be the new Crash. But Slant Magazine's review was brutal.

adelutza said...

I want to go see it again, as it's been a while since I saw it ( January), but I can't make myself to do it.

Guy said...

I wish I liked "Precious." It would make the next few months so much easier for me -- plus, I wouldn't feel like such a heartless bastard.

But all the areas where you make excuses for the film (Daniels's often visual flourishes, the over-egged halo of Blu Rain) were ones that profoundly bothered me, and contributed to the film's unravelling.

I will say that I'm on board with the Mo'Nique support -- her final scene toys with our sympathies very excitingly. I'm less high on Gabourey Sidibe -- it's an affecting debut, but she seems a bit stage-managed to me. For me, the performance is less interesting than the character is sympathetic.

But I totally understand why people feel differently.


robert -- i didn't read that review. I stopped reading the negative reviews when i started hearing the calls of racism. Just like the calls of exploitation it seems really off base and a misreading.

I don't like to disparage other critics or assume they have an agenda but the exploitation charge in general makes zero sense to me.

and how is it a racist movie simply because it portrays the harrowing experience of one highly specific black teenager. it's very nearly an entirely black cast and it's not like you don't see a whole spectrum of behavior. There's not some white savior suddenly helping Precious to grow. There's no Magical Negros helping white people. There's no applauding of stereotypes (like there is in Crash) unless you count the stereotype of the Saintly Teacher and that stereotype crosses all color barriers. We've seen Saintly Asian Teachers, Saintly Hispanic Teachers, Saintly White T... it goes on and on.

And if you can't portray both the negatives and positives of human experience when you're dealing with any particular minority how can you ever say anything truthful?


@ Guy... I wasn't trying to make excuses. I wish it didn't read that way. I definitely feel those things are problems. What I was attempting to say is that they don't shatter the movie because the movie is too strong to be undone by any misstep.

but yeah. Paula Patton is way too saintly ;) but then... that's just about every teacher in every movie.


oh and i feel for you about 75% of Oscar years are difficult for me because I don't like the movie everyone likes: Gladiator, Crash, A Beautiful Mind, Braveheart... etcetera

Murtada said...

Agree with you 100% Nathaniel about the movie not being racist. To your point one of the things that made me like it more is that it was a african american story, told from the point of african american people. We didn't not have a white guide to the story a la The Constant Gardner and there was no white savior a la Blind Side ( that looks awful) and countless other movies.

Zach said...

Sounds pretty good, and I've heard a lot of great things about this film. Very interested in seeing this when I get the chance.

Guy said...

Nathaniel: I'm sorry, I just read my comment back and it sounded snippier than I intended. (Plus, I have no idea what I meant to type with "often visual flourishes" ;)

I understand you're not "making excuses" in the lazy sense, and appreciate you pointing up the flaws.

As for the Oscar year thing, I guess this is my punishment for liking the last three BP winners! (Though "Slumdog" was, admittedly, a fast fade.)

Rob said...

"Nathaniel's review gives me hope that it won't be the new Crash. But Slant Magazine's review was brutal."

Take a look at said critic's track record. There was no way he WASN'T going to eviscerate "Precious."

Daniel Armour said...

I had a chance to see it yesterday after I saw The Men Who Stare At Goats (Decent film. People should give it a chance). As said before, the style of the film gets in the story's way but the overall film is emotionally effective. In saying that, the film never reaches the heights of greatness. I'm not sure why but I just didn't full connect with the story in any deep way. I watched it, I liked it but I didn't feel like I was in it.

In terms of the acting, MoNique's performance delivered. It was terrifying - and terrifyingly sad - without going over the top. I was particularly impressed, however, by Paula Patton (And that's probably because I have a thing for her but haven't seen a single film she's acted in). For me, she gracefully conveyed Ms. Rain's convictions and sympathy for Precious in an honest and open fashion. The rest of the cast - including Sidibe - filled their roles decently enough but never more than that.

adam k. said...

I wish I hadn't had so much of this movie spoiled for me... I don't remember there was so much hype and discussion about a movie before it had even opened. I guess it's my own fault for reading so much about it, but people really have been giving a lot away in forums like this. Not that I'm blaming this right now, because most of what I'd had spoiled has been a gradual buildup from I-don't-even-know-where-anymore.

But like the Paul Patton = lesbian thing?? Could've been a GREAT reveal, but everyone's talking about it.

And with all the talk, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what happens in Mo'Nique's famously "shocking" last scene in the social worker's office. But we'll see.

And there's another thing I heard that really should've had a spoiler warning attached to it that I won't repeat here. People who've seen it may or may not know what I'm talking about. But it's something we find out toward the end, and I have a feeling knowing it beforehand really ruins a bunch of the experience.

Sorry if I spoiled someone else now, but frankly, I think somewhere in side of me, passive-aggressively, I wanted it that way. Meh.

adam k. said...

When does Precious expand out of these 4 cities? I need to see it already.

Someone please tell me if you know (it wasn't a rhetorical question).


i assume given the weekend that they're having (selling out like crazy) that more cities will follow next week

kim said...

Just got home from seeing the Fucking movie. Hated that mother fucking stupid as shit... way too much cursing, a tragic story, very sad. Some fucking stories should not make it into the movies.

Dorian said...

November 20th can't come soon enough you guys! That Slant review was brutal, but I don't give a damn about Ed Gonzalez, so whatever. As for the dream sequences that Precious imagines for herself, they are a vital part of "Push", so they kind of had to be there for the film to ring true with the novel's content. Now if Lee Daniels did in fact direct them as clunkily as the reviews say he did, that's too bad, but take their purpose for what they are, b/c they needed to be included in the film.

I know the deal with Mo'Nique, but can Gabourey Sidibe really run away with this lead actress Oscar in March or what? I thought the possible nomination would be the end of it, but review after review says that she's just as formidable as Mo'Nique is, and if the Academy loves "Precious" like I think they will, all bets are off with how far it can go with them.


@Dorian ... i still think Streep is going to win. The coronation has been building for a long time. But i guess i should stop saying it for awhile in case it doesnt' come true ;)

it's weird that Mulligan seems to be fading already. But all could change once the critics awards and precursors start. I'm mildly excited though also nervous because in some years things go horribly horribly wrong.


updated post to include next week's expansion cities

Robert said...

Well I'm certainly interested to see where this goes. I think my main problem is the previews' highlighting Mo'Nique's high emotion. That type of acting! always bugs me. Thanks for your review though Nathaniel, it's inspiring me to go into it with an open mind.

Timothy said...

That makes me kind of sad reading that it's time for Meryl's "coronation." Too bad if someone else is better this year. It's true that I didn't think much of "Julie & Julia", and that Meryl winning for this lightweight role would be disappointing. But then I don't think that someone with 2 Oscars is really "overdue" for anything. But that's another story. I really want this to be a race to the finish after last year's debacle, and if it's Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan or Abbie Cornish or some free agent that we haven't seen or heard from yet, I hope that voters find some gems this year and keep us guessing for awhile. These forgone conclusion wins are getting kinda old already.


oh, Timothy. I agree completely. It would be really cool if there were no preordained winners anymore.

i just dont know how that can happen given all the precursors and all the problems of overdue that the academy always makes for itself by not voting for people while they're doing their best work. I mean sometimes you're always going to have to pass over someone who is deserving (there being more than one great performance each year) but still...

i do find it ridiculous that Meryl never wins.

Gregroy said...

Monique get your speech ready.

Terence said...

I had the opportunity to see it yesterday and I am pretty sure that it will be a major player in the awards race.

That being said, I do agree that seeing a movie amidst the overwhelming hype pretty much leaves the movie nowhere to go but down. Either its as good as you think it will be or you come out disappointed.

This is one of the best acted movies I have seen in a while and Mo'Nique is so unrelenting as Precious' mother that she will almost assuredly win the supporting actress Oscar. I found myself shrinking in my seat out of fear and anticipation everytime she came on screen and my God that last scene with her and Mariah Carey. Gabourey is a revelation as Precious, her spirit to live being the only thing keeping her going. In what would be a very tough role for a seasoned actress, she excels in her first acting role with quiet stares and emotional heartbreaks.

I did think that the movie had one too many fantasy sequences that were just thrown in to take our mind off the grim story, but they were necessary to keeping the auidence from being too depressed.

Lee Daniels and company have crafted such a touching story that should not be missed.

Danny King said...

I think both Sidibe and Mo'Nique should walk away with Oscars.

NoNo said...

Saw the movie last night. I don't know why didn't open the film in theaters in all five boroughs in NYC. Every showing in Union Square was completely sold out.

The film was very good but unfortunately the hype was so big nothing can live up to it. I think Daniel's style was a bit uneven between the pseudo-documentary cinematography and those fantasy sequences which is I why I can see people calling it amateurish. He should've cut 2 or 3 of those out.

The acting was incredible but I felt that Daniels didn't feel that it was enough to carry the story. The closeups of Sidibe said it all about the character of Precious that he didn't need all of those sequences. I felt that the film was so honest and subdued. If he had kept that throughout the whole film, the audience would've stayed with it no matter how depressing it got.

Very impressive performances by Mo, Sidibe and Mariah Carey and Precious' classmates.

Denzel Hawke said...

Finally got to "Precious" yesterday after nearly a year of hype. I was amazed to find, that even though I already heard so much about the film, I really didn't know what I was getting into.

The film was too ugly, to raw, and too honest, and that's what made it great. Those complaining about the fantasy sequences not lifting the film enough seemed to miss the point. I found the fantasy sequences even more tragic and uncomfortable. Also thought they helped the film from being overbearing, a constant criticism of stories like these.

Mo'Nique deserves Best Supporting Actress. She was daring, impactful, and scary as hell. People in the audience gasped when she asked to hold that baby. I agree with those who didn't like how Paula Patton played her character. Everyone else was real, but she seemed to be an anachronism.

I'm not convinced "Precious" will be the Oscar juggernaut though some people are predicting. Still think Sidibe has some tough competition with Mulligan. And with Peter Jackson, James Cameron, and Clint Eastwood in the mix, both Best Director and Best Film are going to be a fight. In addition to the Hurt Locker support. Nominations should be plenty though.

janelia said...

I am all for Meryl winning Best Actress. I have no watched Meryl, Carey and Gabourey and I honestly think Meryl gave the best performance of these three. Sure, it was a lightweight movie, but that doesn't mean Meryl's performance is lightweight. I remember a youtube video from way back when showing clips of Oscar winning actresses that all had crying scenes and people wondered if an actress could win without a dramatic screaming and crying scene. I think one can make the argument that it takes more effort to win over an audience without the sympathy factor. We always lament the crowning of Oscar bait roles, but then we complain when there is a contender that isnt the typical Oscar type?

Frances said...

I did not like this anything about this film except the end. Shame on Oprah and Tyler.