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STUDIO: Lionsgate Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
- Audio Commentary by Director Lee Daniels
- From Push to Precious: Making-of Featurette
- A Conversation with Lee Daniels and Sapphire
- Deleted Scene
- Reflections on Precious
- Oprah and Tyler: A Project of Passion
- A Precious Ensemble Featurette
“Grab his arms, we’ve gotta punch him in the guts for the next two hours!”
Directed and Produced by: Lee Daniels.
Written by: Geoffrey Fletcher.
Shilled by: Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz.
Two years in the life of a young, poor, uneducated, obese sixteen-year-old girl. Special Features include: Abuse, Incest, Poverty, Teen Pregnancy, Violence, Grand Theft Fried Chicken.
There is no way that a movie starring an overweight first-time actress, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz should be watchable. Precious doesn’t exactly overcome these obstacles. It turns these stumbling blocks into the best parts of the movie. Precious is a powerhouse film by way of truly shattering performances and a pitch-perfect script. It follows the awful life of its main character, Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), as she wallows in a world of self-loathing, parental abuse (and absentee parental rape), illiteracy, and a revolving door of people and communities that have no use for her. She struggles through school, despite her genuine interest in it, and then has to struggle through a trench-warfare style homelife under her unflinchingly hateful mother Mary (Mo’Nique). It’s only when a counselor from her junior high counselor (Precious is sixteen at the start of the film and still in middle school) suspends her and puts her in an alternative learning class that Precious enters a new environment. She is forced to write in a journal every day and is taught to read. She forges a bond with the other girls in her class. She starts to feel like there is something else out there in the world than suffering and regret.
the Beyonce comeback tour of 2042 was an unmitigated disaster.
I think if this were most movies, at this point it would quickly devolve into a story about Overcoming Adversity Because Of A Really Dedicated Special Educator. Thankfully Precious rises above that trap. It’d take the worst of us to not hope that Precious can use this relief that has been given her to better herself and find a way out of her situation, but the film doggedly keeps throwing roadblocks in the way of her success. It’s heartbreaking not only because of how well the character has been portrayed and written, but because all of this is happening because of the ignorant people in her life. That counts for the father who has made her a two-time mother by the age of seventeen (appropriately, the only glimpse we see of him is him prepping for and engaging in incest), and Monique’s Queen Bitch Mary.
I suppose that description isn’t quite doing her performance justice. She starts out the film like a gross caricature of an ignorant, angry black woman. That quickly subsides as the abuse she doles out on her daughter becomes less and less exaggeration and more and more real, physical and emotional abuse. Having watched her win the Oscar last month, I was left wondering if this wasn’t just a case of stunt-casting gone right. I can say that her performance in this film is unflinchingly brave, honest, and unbelievably mean-spirited. Once again, credit is due to Fletcher’s script for never allowing that character a moment of redemption. Of course, she has the scene where she explains why she is the way she is, but never drops the bombshell that perverted an otherwise good mother into the Welfare-cheating, shoe-throwing, chain-smoking whirlwind she has become. Her reasons may make sense in her own head, but to everyone watching she remains the same, ignorant, angry black woman now stripped of everything that gave her power.
Lee Daniel’s audition reel for CLASH OF THE TITANS
Casting is shockingly the least problematic thing about the film. Both Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey make great splashes in their small but crucial roles. I don’t think either have a future in the business, but neither call any special attention to their superstardom. Mariah makes the most startling transformation simply by removing her makeup. The role doesn’t call for much, but her sincerity and thick Bronx accent are pretty good. Paula Patton, most often seen as hot, vapid woman in films, shows up huge with a glamour-free turn as an alternative education English teacher. She shows off a lot more depth than I had previously thought possible.
If there is a problem with the film, it’s director Lee Daniels. Hear the bonus features tell it, and he’s the only reason Gabourey, Mo’Nique, and Mariah Carey were cast in the movie. His compassion for his characters, and his ability to work with, inspire, and get results from his actors aren’t in question. From a story and character perspective, Daniels seems to be a perfect fit. Where the issues lie are in the presentation of those characters’ story. His direction is, for a lack of a better term, odd. The story contains many fantasy sequences that are used as coping mechanisms by the film’s protagonist. While the scenes themselves are fine, the editing of these into the story feel disconnected. It’s almost as if Daniels shot all these sequences as their own little collection and just popped them into the story as needed. It’s also worth noting the inconsistencies in the fantasies. One scene that has gained a little notorious fame is Precious seeing a trim, blonde white girl in the mirror when she is getting ready for school. The ingrained idea that being white makes you happy is actually a documented phenomenon, and the choice to use this concept when the rest of the fantasies feature the real Precious in a series of different costumes and environments seems to be counter-intuitive.
What Nick Cannon gets to wake up to every morning, that lucky so-and-so.
Also odd is the decision to, at random, use the documentary-cam; the one where the operator will quickly zoom in and out just a hair and shift the lens around the scene, as though he’s adjusting his framing. At first I thought this was being used to distinguish Precious’ reality from her fantasy but it became clear that this was only ever happening during a scene where two or three people are talking to each other. The rotating series of headshots would sometimes shift around for… some reason. The film feels very tonally inconsistent with all of these odd choices in direction and editing. The focus of the film is always with the plights of the characters, but Daniels’ need to constantly put things in slow-mo, fade in and out, and add little camera tricks to scenes that simply do not require them feel as though he’s using a great movie with a great script as some sort of demo reel for his production company.
All of that is primarily nitpicky. It would be nearly impossible to not recommend Precious to fans of film. The way it tells a very conventional story in an unexpectedly honest way, combined with thrilling performances by people that have no right to be this talented make it a movie worth seeking out. Geoffrey Fletcher’s script is nearly perfect in how it lays bare the personal and societal issues that plague a lot of inner city and poverty stricken youths from ever escaping their fates. It’s a movie that features black characters, but doesn’t make it about black characters. Precious’ story seems sadly universal and true. It’s a movie that doesn’t deal in hope, but it does deal with victories. For people like Claireece Precious Jones, being able to see another day is another battle won.
This single disc package features quite a robust transfer for a standard definition release. Upconverted on my PS3, the disc showed no signs of blown out colors, and all skin tones came across as natural. It’s certainly not going to blow your mind with its A/V quality, but Lionsgate has given Precious a solid transfer.
Aside from a slightly thank-y commentary from director Lee Daniels, there isn’t a lot by way of special features of merit. Included are a series of pretty standard featurettes on the production history and the casting of the picture.
Gabourey finds a TARDIS and uses it to ensure the career of Marlon Wayans never happens.
There’s also a congratulatory conversation between author Sapphire and director Daniels. We get a single deleted scene in an incest counseling group which prominently features a Precious speech placed elsewhere in the final film. Rounding it out are quick, pointless blurbs from the film’s stars and directors on what they hope Precious will mean to audiences, and the ever present Also From… trailers (in case you REALLY needed to see the same ones that are played before the movie begins anyway).
I can’t imagine these features selling anyone on the film more than the movie could on its own. They add almost nothing to the experience of Precious. Perhaps a case study of a girl in Precious’ position would have been nice, or a glimpse into the life of a social worker or special ed instructor. Instead we get a whole bunch of talking heads glad-handling the flick. If you dig the flick, there’s some lightly interesting recollections to be found, but the majority of the rest of the disc is too fluffy to make any lasting impact.
Despite that, Precious is an above average film held down by saggy direction and a lackluster special features section. Luckily, the flick is bolstered by outstanding performances and a truly great script by Geoffrey Fletcher. It’s not a must-see, but you’ll more than likely be glad you did.