Precious

16 Oct

Director: Lee Daniels (2009).

Most likely this was not the best film to watch when I was feeling a bit out of sorts but nonetheless, Precious was, as expected, an incredible film despite its harrowing subject matter.

Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, Precious follows the life of Claireece Precious Jones, an overweight, illiterate 17 year old who has endured a life of violent and sexual abuse including bearing two of her dad’s children… It was never going to be an easy ride but unlike many other films tackling such sensitive subject matter, Precious shies away from the cliched story arcs of ‘if we all love each other and help out all the horrific things that have happened in your life will be forgotten’. Not for poor Precious.

After discovering she is pregnant with another of her father’s children, Precious is expelled from her high school and sent to alternative school where she meets Blu Bain (Paula Patton), and her class of likewise delinquents and tearaways, and begins to learn to read.

I think the saviour of the film, the part that rescues it from the all too easy option of descending a screenplay into a downward spiral of despair and bringing the audience down with it, are the characters who guide Precious throughout her various ordeals – but likewise those that cause them.

In a startlingly departure from the monstrosity that was Glitter …not that I saw that film, ahem… Mariah Carey plays Miss Weiss, the standoffish and initially somewhat insensitive social worker, suprisingly well, illustrating the inevitable taboo and prejudices that come with being an overweight pregnant, illiterate 17 year old when you are oblivious to the horrendous truth behind the situation. Another unlikely gem comes in the (beautiful) shape of John McFadden, Precious’ nurse while she is in hospital after giving birth to her second (father’s) child. Played by Lenny Kravitz, John shows Precious kindness and concern that is categorically alien to her, and in him she finds a subtle friendship that continues throughout the film.

Perhaps the most despicable character, but the most memorable in Precious, is her mother, played by Mo’Nique. With skincrawing efficiency, Mo’Nique is truly captivating as the vile, aggressive, greasy mother who sat back while her husband abused her only daughter to the effect that The Parkers is now officially ruined for me. It is a very visceral performance and much of this can be attributed to the style of the filming and cinematography itself. Gritty and greasy, the camera captures the dank surroundings of Precious’ life with her mother in their delapidated tenement flat, delivering blurred and fragmented images of Precious’ horrific past as she tries to forget but still let us in to learn the unspoken truths. Juxtaposed with this, we are granted access to the Hollywood glamour of Precious’ imagination – saturated with colour and happiness, these scenes often sliced inbetween scenes of her father’s abuse or her mother’s violence, explain how Precious has managed to protect herself all these years.

The ending is far from cathartic but then, any ‘happy ending’ to such a story would be forced and eliminate any sense of realism that has been acheived throughout the film. This girl’s life will never get a happy ending. Instead, we find satisfaction in the knowledge that she has finally found a haven and protection from people who love her. The actions and peversions of others have ruled her life for too lond and now, with the silence finaly over and her children freed from the crippling grip of her mother, she can live the rest of her life in peace, before she pays the ultimate price of someone elses’ despicable mistake for once in her life knowing that she is not the mistake…

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