I just did something I’ve been dying to do for the better part of 2009. I finally watched the most buzzed-about and truly anticipated film of the year — or any year, for that matter. Did it live up to the hype? How could it? It’s nearly impossible for any film to match the expectations that have been set these past few months for Precious: Based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire. I still need time to process the movie and watch it a few more times, but my first impression is that I liked it. I didn’t love it.
While it’s fresh in my head, here are a few random thoughts on the film in general.
1. The thing I like most about the movie is that while Precious, the main character, has been beaten down by life and at one point even scribbles, “Why me?” on a piece of paper (I burst out in tears), she’s never turned into a complete victim. At times, even with her monster of a mother, she gives as good as she gets. She’s presented and portrayed as a young lady who is strong and resilient despite having had the misfortune of being handed a bunch of really sour lemons.
2. Mariah Carey did a nice job in a very small role as a welfare social worker. But I couldn’t help but wonder what Helen Mirren, who was director Lee Daniels’ first choice, would have done with the part.
4. Gabourey Sidibe, who plays Precious, does a fine job peeling away the character’s various layers over the course of the movie. But I wonder how much of her growing acclaim (she’s now a possible spoiler in Meryl Streep’s bid for Oscar No. 2) is due to the fact that the actress is so elegant and poised in real life (see above, right), quite different from the character she plays in the movie. I guess it is a good thing that people are seeing this. The name of the game is acting, and the more people see who Gabourey really is, the more people see that this was a performance and not an unknown simply playing herself.
5. And then there’s Mo’Nique. What a force of nature! Or the devil herself! Everyone’s talking about her monologue near the end of the movie, but to me the scene that should guarantee her an invitation to the Oscars is the one when Precious returns home after giving birth. From the sweet way she greets Precious before asking to hold the newborn, you can see the fire inside. Mo’Nique, playing way against type or image (see above, left), handles the scene flawlessly, exhibiting an entire movie’s worth of emotions in just a few minutes. By the time she’s hurling a television set over a balcony railing at Precious and her baby, it’s obvious that you’ve just witnessed a soon-to-be-legendary climactic scene for the ages.
6. Just before Mo’Nique’s epic monologue, there is a small scene with Precious, her young neighbor and the neighbor’s mother. It would have been a throwaway sequence were it not for the little girl’s black eye and her mother’s rotten, impatient attitude. Precious, who has spent the entire movie disregarding the girl and at one point even physically pushes her, seems to finally get the message. She gives the girl her scarf as a present. It’s a nice touch that says a lot about Precious’s year-long journey to self-determination.