Thursday, 4 February 2010
REVIEW: Precious: Based On a Novel By Sapphire
Here's the thing about movies like this. They can be powerful and to be sure this film has more then one moment of real domestic horror that lands. But having said that, A great movie isn't great because of its subject matter, its great on the way it handles it, and in that respect Precious is good rather then great. Its ambitious, really going for something here and that is to be admired, but for the things that pay of wonderfully, there's at least as many that don't. A deeply flawed movie with the occasional moment of brilliance (Particularly when M'onique is on screen, and trust she fully deserves her Oscar win in a months' time.)
The story follows Precious, a morbidly obese, domestically abused teenage girl living in a run down, impoverished Harlem neighborhood. Her mother is an abusive, selfish monster and her life is a series of humiliations and punishments. Until, she is enrolled in a special class led by inspirational teacher Paula Patton and with the help of other socially repressed teenage girls and is finally given her chance to find herself. Described like this, the films seems like a slightly more uncompromising version of the usual teacher getting through to kids from the wrong side of the street, which I guess it is in a way. Being more from the student's perspective, particularly one who lives such a horrifying life as Precious does gives it a bit more bite. But the scenes in the classroom felt a little generic to me, with the supporting cast of multi-ethnic stereotypes definitely giving off a freedom writers vibe. Paula Patton is good enough in the role of the teacher I suppose, but it feels a little tame compared to the scenes where M'onique is on screen as Precious' near satanic mother, who is a character played with such self-centered ferocity, and also brilliantly, that whenever she's not on screen the movie feels weaker by comparison. I believe blogger's call it the Joker syndrome. But as depressing as it is to say, the only real excellent aspect of Precious is the horror, as the fantasy sequences feel forced and trite, as does at times the familiar redemption by education. Gabourney Sidibe delivers a quite internal performance in the lead. which is impressively mature for her age, allowing her co-stars to steal scenes and allowing her character to be an almost inaccessible pillar of sadness. Its not spellbinding, but it is impressive.
Overall, Precious isn't quite the masterpiece it wanted to be, or possibly thinks it is, given all the consequent critical adoration, but its a powerful movie that isn't quite what it could be because it falls into one or two cliche's. But nonetheless its terrifically acted representation of a world too often ignored, so often if the visuals are slightly obnoxious, you can forgive what it is because you can feel what it wanted to be.