Saturday, January 9, 2010
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL “PUSH” BY SAPPHIRE / ****
Release Date: November 6, 2009
Running Time: 109 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Could it be – Mariah Carey in an Oscar caliber film? I mean of course, another Oscar caliber film so soon after her 2001 classic “Glitter.”
All kidding aside, Carey is part of one of the year’s best ensemble casts, including other such luminaries as Lenny Kravitz, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd, and the debuting Gabourey Sidibe. It might still sound hard to believe, but the depth of these performances creates some of the most memorable scenes found in any movie this year, and that movie is the title-brevity challenged “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”
Sidibe plays the title character, an obese Harlem high school student that also happens to be the mother of two thanks to her disgustingly boorish father. She lives with her shockingly abusive mother Mary (the sure to be Oscar nominated Mo’Nique), who does everything in her power to tear Precious down. The film is basically a snapshot of Precious’s life, as she tries to piece it together from the scraps she’s been given.
Precious doesn’t necessarily have the means to better herself, but she has the desire to. The only encouragement she gets from her mother is to go down to the welfare office and get what she can get, because that’s all she’ll ever get. The performance by Mo’Nique is one of the great revelations of the year; who knew she could act? When she wins an Oscar on March 7, everyone will know.
Excluding the destructive influence of her mother, Precious has several positive female role models in her life. She attends a special school behind her mother’s back, and her teacher Ms. Rain (Patton) takes a keen interest in her. Social worker Mrs. Weiss (Carey) also tries her best to help Precious’s situation. The one seemingly positive male role model is Nurse John (Kravitz), who takes care of her when she births her second child.
“Precious” is a remarkably powerful film – a scene late in the movie in which Mary explains to Mrs. Weiss why she acts the way she does towards her own daughter is as heartbreaking as any I’ve ever seen. Mo’Nique is pitch-perfect in the role; I had to keep reminding myself that she did indeed headline a movie called “Phat Girlz.”
Director Lee Daniels (“Shadowboxer”) got the most out of the actors, and created an emotionally wrenching experience I won’t soon forget. My friend Dan Hoag criticized Daniels’s direction, but when a film reaches me on the level that this one did, I believe Daniels accomplished his goal.
Theater: The Great Escape Omaha 16, Omaha, NE
Time: 135 pm
Date: December 2, 2009