Saturday, August 07, 2010

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Mocked By Everyone

It took that long for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, to make it to our shores, despite its winning the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and a slew of nominations at this year's Oscars where it won for Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. I suppose distributors here sometimes get the jitters whether the local audience will take to certain films, even award winning ones, because of subject matter and content, and if you'd remember, Frost/Nixon didn't get a theatrical release here, while Good Night and Good Luck also had its release not made it in time before the Oscar results. Well, better late than never.

Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is an illiterate, obese teenage girl in Harlem pregnant with her second child. As if these burdens aren't enough, how about being subjected to mental torture, sexual and physical abuse every waking minute when she's at home with her mom Mary (Mo'Nique) and her unseen dad who cannot get his dirty hands off her? Watching this film is like careening down a railway track at night with the destination station not in sight, where everything that Precious encounters, is something so negative that it demeans her, and will just about break down every iota of strong will left.

So who can blame her if her only escape is to lapse into her daydreams, where she fantasizes about being popular, rich, wanted, beautiful, thin, white, and sometimes, one or more of what has been mentioned. That's her only break from her mundane miserable existence, that unless you have a heart of stone, you're surely going to feel for Precious, and wonder just when her breaking point will be reached before she walks out on her mother, played by Mo'Nique in very, very fine bitchy form. She well deserves her win at the Oscars, and I hope she isn't anything like that in real life! Just listening to her curse in rapid fire mode is enough to send some chilling jitters down your spine, and imagine that if someone (mom!) does exactly what Mary does in the film in dishing out a barrage of verbal garbage.

And speaking of those who do not resemble what they look like in real life, see if you can spot Lenny Kravitz as Nurse John, or better yet, Mariah Carey! Here Carey stars as Mrs Weiss, welfare worker who's relentless probing for Precious to cough up any iota of information of her abuse, and you can see how makeup and costuming played down her diva persona. Paula Patton though steals the show with her role as Ms Rain, the benefactor of sorts and teacher at the alternative school that Precious enrolled to, which makes her quite the likable, though cliched, inspirational school teacher amongst a rowdy class of women/girls who need plenty of help, both in their education as well as emotional stability.

Gabourey Sidibe too deserves a shout out as she tackled such a heavy, emotionally draining role as a rookie, and came through convincingly. The plus sized actress showed a vast emotional range as she had to display all the ups and downs (mostly downs though) that Precious experiences in life, and how through education and encouragement, slowly stand up for all the wrong that's done against her in a build up of inner strength. Living on welfare isn't easy, since you'd have to begin with telling a stranger all your woes before being able to live on the dole, and it is through these opening up sessions, plus a glimpse of a normal life while staying with Mrs Weiss, shows Precious other alternatives in life should she stand up and not be bullied, even when and especially worse coming from family.

Sometimes you wonder whether the writer Sapphire and director Lee Daniels are sadistic, in having craft a character whose constantly being abused, with no light at the end of the tunnel to get her out of her plight, which seems to get worst each time and every positive step made encounters a setback. While acknowledging that education still holds the golden key to escape from poverty and opens the doors of opportunity for gainful employment, it is not easy as waking up and deciding that something must be done. There must be resolve, determination, and sometimes a lot of nudging from external parties before inertia to improve one's life can be overcome.

Despite its relatively dark and heavy narrative, ultimately this film tells us that there is no difficulty too much to overcome, and there's always that glimmer of hope if we were to look out for it, and seek the right assistance to get there. No man, or woman, is an island.

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