Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2008) – 4/5

Dark and disturbing, with a few very hard to watch scenes that make you wonder how in the heck this film managed to hit mainstream the way it did. Oh, Oprah, right.

Unfortunately, since it is so graphic and bleak, it’s not exactly the kind of film people will flock to see. Not that this is a bad thing, but its subject matter, that is, rape, incest, and domestic violence, along with the occasionally wacky way the film is edited/directed, will definitely turn some people off.

The acting is, without a doubt, the strongest part of this film. The main character is convincing as an emotionally and physically abused girl stumbling through life, not really knowing anything outside of pain and suffering.

And Mo’Nique, man. I had my doubts at first, but there’s a scene near the end, a monologue of sorts, that was so finely acted, it was arguably one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on film. She makes this vile, disgusting, twisted character almost sympathetic by the end, to the point where you understand why she would treat her daughter the way she did, no matter how wrong and ill-advised her thinking may have been. It’s just a sad scene, and one that will probably win her the Oscar.

Mariah Carey is also pretty good. I had trouble taking her seriously at times as this hum-drum, plain faced social worker, but when I did, she was somewhat convincing. And who knew she could pull off a New York accent? Unless that’s how she actually speaks. Either way, well done.

The weakest part of this film is the direction. Or maybe the editing. There are a few excessive pans and weird, inappropriate crane shots where the camera hovers all over the place in a given scene. It’s very noticeable and highly distracting. It’d be okay if this were an action adventure film, or even if it were done in a more subtle manner. But when you’re doing such deliberately showy camera tricks in a serious drama, it just takes away from the realism. It seemed a tad amateurish, to be honest.

There were also a few instances where really dramatic and disturbing stuff would be punctuated by the silliest of music, thus negating the effect. At least, this was the experience that I had. And the dream/fantasy sequences were so over the top and unnecessary. They really took me out of the movie.

Overall, a good film that could have been great, maybe even the best of the year, if it hadn’t been for a few silly directing/editing decisions. A shame, cause otherwise, it’s brilliant. Well paced, extremely well acted, disturbing, emotional, unique, socially relevant. All those good things.

I also like the fact that it’s a “black” film, that is, all the main characters are played by relatively unknown, or in Mo’Nique’s case, unrecognized, black people. And they’re all strong characters that don’t pander to stereotypes or sentimentality, or who become victims of underdevelopment and cliché. A true rarity in mainstream Hollywood cinema. There should be more films like this, minus the stupid direction/editing, of course.

Also, the students in Precious’ class were sexy as hell. Especially the one with the Jamaican accent, oy. Sorry, had to put that in there.

Watch it!

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