We just saw this movie today and I can safely say that Mo’nique might as well clear off a space on her mantle right now for her Oscar as supporting actress. In fact, there wasn’t a bad performance in this film and I believe it is probably one of the best films of the past several decades. Gritty, unflinching stuff. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
I liked it, but I had some problems with the film. First , it bothered me that it seemed to have a safari feel – “while I wait in the jeep, Jim will take our cameras deep within the
lair of the inner-city black woman. Aren’t you glad you don’t live like this?”
Also while the ending was powerful in that it showed Precious deciding to get away once and for all from her mother’s toxicity, she’s not prepared to be a good mother to her children. This isn’t Precious’s fault – no one ever taught her. But she still has no idea how to take care of kids ( witness Abdul’s car-seat-less ride home from the hospital), she’s still got no money or prospects to get any, and there’s nothing to show she’s dealt with her own tendency to violence. She made a decision to change her life for the better, but if that’s all it took I’d be 50 lbs. lighter myself. These issues are not unaddressed in the movie, which I found the last scene of her triumphantly walking away to be unsatisfying.
I do agree about the performances all around. Carey was a revelation as a quiet but unmoveable personality, esp. during Mary’s monologue when she did such an excellent but not focus-stealing job of listening, and being affected. Mo’Nique’s final scene was riveting, and she built so much into it. Anger, remorse, need.
Sidibe also did an outstanding job at Precious. She played everything so small, broken, and contained that one might be forgiven for thinking she didn’t do much, but the completely different persona in the fantasy sequences put the lie to that idea.
I’m very glad I saw the film. I just think the performances were better than the material.
I liked it because, like life, it wasn’t perfect. No tidy ending, no winning of the lottery, no Mr. Right appearing out of nowhere. Just life grinding on, but marginally better than it was because someone took some control of it (however tenuous). I thought it was a good message to all abused women that however poor your situation, you don’t necessarily have to live that way.
There is a lot of criticism of the film as promoting black stereotypes, but it doesn’t play that way to me. One critic likened it to a remake of The Color Purple, and there are some of the same elements.
I had planned not to see the movie for the same reason that the OP opened with. I was disgusted by the idea of people using the movie to ‘get a glimpse of the elusive beast known as the poor ghetto black woman’. The reason why I don’t like those kind of books is the same. I often feel that black people (authors, magazines, screenwriters) exploit white people’s misunderstanding of black people.
But I did break down and see the movie, because I got tired of everytime I said a word about anything I read about the movie, people saying, “But did you actually SEE the film of which you speak??”
So, I went ahead and saw it, and I am glad I did. Because the performances were deep and powerful.
I stand by my initial thoughts about the movie. Someone on this board used ‘poverty porn’ to describe it, and I think that is a pretty good description.
I completely understand that it is just one story out of the book of life. Just like a movie like KIDS doesn’t represent all white people, there is no reason to believe that such an extreme movie as Precious is intended to represent all black ghetto life. Knowing all of that, I still think they went a bit too far with piling it all on. Particularly the end.
I have to say that Mariah Carey without makeup. . .yikes!
It took a lot of courage for me to go see this film, as the subject matter hit rather close to home. I found myself pleasantly surprised – I’d expected something relentlessly bleak, with a pathetic, unlikeable protagonist and really graphically disturbing scenes. Instead I saw a girl who was pretty tough, smart, and (I thought) likable. Precious really showed a lot of self-protection coping mechanisms and demonstrated clear-headedness about her own situation. She displayed remarkable optimism. The film showed enough violence for you to get the picture, but it didn’t really make you suffer through every gut-wrenching moment. I left feeling kind of good. My favorite part of the film is when Precious gives the red scarf to the girl who is also being abused, and then looks in the mirror and appreciates herself for what she is.
The film is definitely about surviving abuse. I get the feeling it was written for abuse survivors (confirmed by the dedication at the end, ‘‘To all the precious girls out there’’ or something like that.) As an abuse survivor myself, I identified with several of the moments there, such as the early scene on the staircase with her mother and the family meeting with the social worker toward the end. When she looked at that poor woman and said, ‘‘You can’t handle this,’’ and then basically told her mother to shove it, I wanted to dance. It is absolutely true that the social worker was unequipped to handle that situation and good on her for recognizing it and getting the hell out of there. Little moments were very authentic, such as having the supposedly helper adults always on the phone and distracted with their own shit. That is totally true to life no matter where you’re at. No matter what horrific thing you’re going through, nobody is ever going to care more than you do, and I love that the film honors that reality.
I realize a lot of people are going to consider Precious’ circumstances over the top, but I have no doubt there’s some woman in this country who has lived that reality. More likely there are more women who can relate than we would like to think. I also think there was a literary reason for choosing to pile all that shit on her–remember the classroom discussion about ‘‘unrelenting circumstances’’? That was a ‘‘breaking the fourth wall’’ moment IMO. Precious is a literary device to drive home a point.
And I will tell you that this is a part of surviving abuse. It might not be something as bad as contracting HIV that knocks you on your ass, but at some point you always have that experience, maybe a small thing, maybe a big thing, that makes you want to give up. There is a point where you feel like it’s never going to end, and it’s always going to get worse and worse. For Precious, that point was finding out that she was dying. I think it was necessary to use such a hyperbolic extreme to communicate what that moment feels like to those who would not understand.
All in all, it was more uplifting and more validating then I expected it to be. As a film I think the acting was fantastic. I wasn’t crazy about some of the director’s editing choices. It is not the best film I’ve ever seen. Though it was extremely reminiscent of The Color Purple, it was not as good as The Color Purple, not even close.
That wasn’t just no makeup. They used makeup to make her look like that. The director talked about it in several interviews.
The person sitting behind me in the theater wouldn’t stop talking about how ugly Mariah Carey was. I wanted to bitch-slap her.
Thank you. I wasn’t aware of that.
Thank you for posting this. It validates my take on the film entirely. Those who feel that the film is nothing more than a movie made by black people in order to say “look at the poor black people”, are missing the point by a wide margin.
I don’t think it was a “look at the poor black people movie.” Precious could have been white, latino, or anything else. It was about the abuse. That type of abuse doesn’t discriminate, it affects rich as well as poor.
I thought the acting was great. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Mariah Carey as a serious actress, but she was a much better than I expected. Mo’nique was amazing and Sidibe was perfect.