Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, is the multifaceted story of an overweight, illiterate Harlem teen pregnant with her second child. The film blends fantasy with reality in order to portray the methods Claireece “Precious” Jones uses to deal with abuse and poverty, among other things. The film has the right blend of humor to offset the seriousness, but attempts to tackle a plethora of issues, making it sometimes straddle the line of believability. More after the jump.
When I first watched Precious, the film’s comedic elements were what drew me in. What I’d heard of the film made it seem like either a sob story or an unrealistic, inspirational tale. Luckily, the film falls into neither of these traps (though perhaps inspirational, it isn’t so in a glossy, Hollywood sense). I was quite pleasantly surprised when Precious’s voiceover began and her personality burst onto the screen. For a character who, in her words, “don’t say nothing,” the voiceover was handled expertly to give her a real chance to speak. It exposed the audience to the rich fantasy life hidden under Precious’s hardened exterior. The film’s soundtrack is used as a way to blend Precious’s imagination with the reality of her terrifying home life, bridging the two aspects together.
The film utilizes a lot of flashbacks, but they’re used in a way that doesn’t appear amateurish or tacky. The flashbacks are motivated when Precious is put into situations that force her to recall a heartbreaking past. The flashbacks imitate Precious’s point of view, making them fit into a story that is told primarily through the lens her subjective experience. Particularly haunting is the flashback of Precious’s incestuous rape. The way it is cut imitates the way one would recall a traumatic event. It is then followed by one of Precious’s dreams before slipping back into reality.
One choice I didn’t find effective was the use of slow motion in some scenes, especially towards the end. The emotions it tried to emphasize were already clearly present thanks to the commendable acting and writing. The addition of slow motion gave cheapness to what could have been emotionally powerful moments. The best parts of the film existed when the script and actors were left to do their work.
The film tackles issues of education, illiteracy, HIV, teen pregnancy, abuse, poverty, and incest. Though it has light moments, it’s still a lot to pack into a single film. It’s not to say that some people don’t face all of these issues at once, but for a movie I think it attempts to include too much. There’s a point where the bad news starts to seem excessive.
Despite some flaws, Precious is a moving film with many great moments. Its strengths lie in the acting and script, as evidenced by its Oscar wins for Best Supporting Actress (Mo’Nique) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Geoffrey Fletcher). Gabourey Sidibe, also nominated for an Oscar, put in a great first-time performance as Precious. Though it isn’t a movie I’d be able watch over and over again, it is one that certainly deserves a viewing.
Special Features: The DVD is chock-full of Special Features that help show how Precious evolved into the award-winner it is now. It includes three very interesting videos with engaging cast and crew interviews. “From Push to Precious” chronicles the transformation from the novel to the film. “A Precious Ensemble” addresses the difficulties of casting the role of Precious and how the actresses had to give up on glamour to get to the heart of their characters. “Oprah and Tyler: A Project of Passion” includes interviews with Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry as they speak about what drew them to attach themselves to the project. The DVD also includes a deleted scene: “Incest Survival Meeting.” Although the scene raises interesting questions, it says a lot that I’m not convinced Precious would say aloud. Sidibe’s audition is included as well, and it is incredible to see how much this first-time actress was able to bring from the start. “Reflections on Precious” has Daniels, Sidibe, and Paula Patton state what they’d like the audience to take from the film. Other features are an audio commentary with director Lee Daniels and “A Conversation with Author Sapphire and Director Lee Daniels,” which is quite similar to “From Push to Precious”.
Film: A minus
Special Features: A