Some movies have me at odds. While most people go to the movies to have fun, some are simply not fun to watch. They may be technically well done, but I ask myself, do I really need to tell people to go see something so difficult to sit through? It depends what movie it is really. Ask me my opinion on this year's Last House on the Left, which was anything but fun to sit through, and I'll tell you no, you absolutely do not need to see it. It's dark, depressing and gives off the impression that violence is the only means to an end. It's a vile, evil film that nobody should ever see. But the new drama, Precious is absolutely worth seeing. Though the two are vastly different films, both have similar tones. Both are hard to sit through and both show evil in their purest form. The difference is that Precious ends on an uplifting note, a note so inspiring and wonderful that you walk out of the theater feeling great about life, knowing that good still exists in the world.
The movie takes place in Harlem in 1987 and it follows Precious, played by newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in a breakthrough role, a 16 year old girl in junior high who can't separate letters apart from each other, much less read and is pregnant with her second child, both conceived with her father who brutally raped her. Her father is long gone and she is now living with her mother, played by Mo'Nique, a woman who physically, sexually, and verbally abuses Precious to make up for her own inadequacies. She fantasizes about a different life where she is married to a nice white man and her mother loves her. In fact, she desires the love of her mother so much that she looks at old pictures and pretends they speak to her, offering words of adulation and encouragement. Eventually, Precious is expelled from school, but she is taken in by an alternative school called Each One Teach One where, thanks to her teacher, played by Paula Patton, she finally begins to recognize her own potential.
Precious's mother is lowlife scum, a woman as evil as any I've seen this year. She yells and curses at Precious, telling her she's fat, worthless and stupid and will never make anything of herself. She tells her that nobody loves her and that her birth ruined her life. She even blames Precious for being raped. She's a terrible woman that is played magnificently by Mo'Nique who perfectly embodies every abusive parent out there, which makes her performance that much more impressive. She is terrifying and works as the perfect antithesis to Precious.
You see, Precious is completely unlike her mother and is an admirable girl who loves her children, wants to be with them and wants to give them everything in the world. She's standoffish, but only because she feels like nobody cares about her. It's been ingrained in her head for so long that she is worthless that she believes it to be true.
This feeling of hopelessness is conveyed perfectly in an early scene where the viewer is put directly into Precious's shoes. It's a point of view shot of Precious looking at her mother who is staring and yelling at her, saying all of the things I've detailed above. It gives you a sense of what it feels like to be abused and it's degrading. For this brief moment, I felt abandoned, emotionally lost in a sea of sadness, but thankfully I was only watching a movie. To truly know what it feels like to actually live in a household such as hers is unfathomable to me.
Precious is not a fun movie. It's challenging. It's difficult. It's hard to watch at times, but it is also touching because Precious comes to a revelation and realizes that she isn't worthless. She is wonderful. She realizes that she isn't fat. She is beautiful. She realizes that she isn't stupid. She is smart and can do anything when she puts her mind to it.
If there's one thing I didn't like in the film, it's the overdone dream sequences where Precious daydreams to get away from reality. Sometimes she dreams she is a movie star, others a singer and others a model, but these occurred too many times and it became overkill. I didn't need these moments to realize she didn't like her life. I wanted to see it in her emotion. Seeing the sadness on her face and hearing the pain in her voice is more effective, but some of the daydreams killed that effect.
Nevertheless, that's one relatively unimportant quibble in an otherwise spectacular film. When Oscar season roles around, expect this one to be up for some awards, particularly Mo'Nique who, again, is remarkable in her role.
There have been lots of great movies this year, but few have come close to what Precious accomplishes. Only those without moral, upstanding hearts will find themselves unaffected. This is a must see film.
Precious receives 4.5/5