Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” By Sapphire | Lee Daniels, 2009
In January of 2009 a movie called Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire caused quite a stir in the Sundance Film Festival when it took home the majority of the prizes awarded to a narrative film. Among those prizes was the Best Actress awards, which went to Mo’Nique. This one in particular was surprising because although she is a great comedienne, no one would have thought that she would give an award-worthy dramatic performance. And so from that day, Mo’Nique began her journey to becoming an Oscar-winner, but along that journey, the movie its self and the rest of the cast began getting more recognition, and so began one of the most unlikely success stories of the year.
Precious deals with a 300 lb and illiterate African-American 16-year-old named Precious jones (Gabourey Sidibe) who is pregnant with her second child from his dad. To top it off, her mom (Mo’Nique) yells at her all the time, hits her, and also sexually and mentally abuses her. Because of this, she gets kicked out of school, but is also told about an alternative school where with the help of Ms. Blu Rain, she will get as far as possible with her education and will have a better future despite her circumstances.
Based on all the word of mouth this movie created and all the praise it got, one would think that this was a classic-in-the-making. However, it is not, It is still a very good movie, but it has way too many problems. The biggest problem of them all is Lee Daniel’s direction. I do understand the need to have those scenes where Precious sees herself having a better life, but the rest of the movie should not have been as glossy as it was. His direction is at its best when he is directing scenes where just two people are talking, but when he tries to do something stylish, he goes way over the top. I would have loved to see what a more controlled director would have done with this.
Another problem is the script. The source novel is very short, yet there is plenty of character development. Here, everything moves so fast that we don’t really get to know any other character except for Precious and her mom. Geofrey Fletcher didn’t really deserve to win the Oscar. I wish it had gone to District 9.
The strength of the movie comes from the performances. Mo’Nique rightfully earned her Oscar. Some people say that she is way over the top, but don’t we look at all people like her the same way? That final scene with her is just amazing. The best performance in the movie, however, comes from first-timer Gabourey Sidibe. Her performance is so natural that if I hadn’t seen any of her TV appearances where she showed her real self, I would have thought that she was exactly like Precious. I would have loved her win the Best Actress Oscar since Tilda Swinton didn’t get nominated, but since she didn’t I hope her nomination takes her a long way towards a great career, it’ll be hard for her, but I do hope she succeeds. The rest of the cast is also quite good, with Paula Patton giving her best performance yet and Mariah Carey showing that she may have some acting chops.
Precious is not quite what the hype makes it out to be. It could have been great, but the direction and the script hold it back a bit. With that said, I liked this movie a lot because of the performance from the entire cast. That alone makes this movie worth a watch.