Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Precious...? Not So Much...

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the movie "Precious", and apart from being the most disturbing movie I have ever seen, it also opened a window to a world I did not know even existed. In fact, the movie was so disturbing, I had to turn it off a few times before I could continue watching it. And please note, if you decide to watch it, make sure any family members under the age of 18 are out of the house. I don't think anyone should be subject to that sort of language or visual content until they are mature enough not be traumatized. I'm only slightly younger than Methuselah, and it traumatized me. I had definite mixed feelings about the film, and about Gabourey Sidibe's performance. She was perfectly cast in the role, but it was obvious she had not had much acting experience. In most of her scenes, I had difficulty hearing what she was saying. She seemed to do what most new actors do -- she spoke a little too quickly and she mumbled. Only in her voice-overs was I able to clearly hear her. I wanted to love her performance, but I didn't. I loved her character, though, and Precious is a true hero overcoming almost insurmountable odds.

The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, and directed by Lee Daniels. A reviewer by the name of Armond White who writes for the New York Press had this to say: "Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate. They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism."

Another reviewer called the movie "Social pornography at its worst, festering in racial self-loathing and oblivious to a system that ignores its neediest." I felt that way too, but I think the movie touched a chord with Oprah because it must have felt slightly autobiographical for her.

Mariah Carey was amazing as Precious's social worker, and she stole every scene she was in. The nuances of emotions that ran across her face and through her eyes was wonderful. Who knew Mariah Carey was such a good actress. Did she know she was such a good actress? Do we see an Oscar in her future? Well, I hope we see more roles with Mariah Carey. And of course Mo'Nique's performance was in a whole other stratosphere. She should have won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

I didn't like the movie "Precious", but then, I didn't like "The Hurt Locker" either and it won Best Picture. Maybe I need to put my rose colored glasses back on. Too often I am able to see exploitation and propaganda where other people are not. My emotions are not easily manipulated, and it kind of ruins the fun. As one reviewer said about the movie "Precious", "There is a thin line between compassion and voyeurism; soul-searing drama and overwrought melodrama; opera and Oprah. This film tramples all over it."

I'm afraid I agree... I wanted to like this movie, but I didn't care for it.

28 comments:

Kimberly said...

I like Oprah...really, she does some good things for those in need --- but I believe she is racially motivated. Just saying...this same thing could happen in a "white" home.

And food for thought or not - how many black families adopt white children?

jeannette stgermain said...

I haven't seen either movie - but it seems the media you quote seem to agree on one thing: that it's too overdone in some aspects.

Jo said...

Kimberly, the movie disturbed me because it felt exploitive. I really, really wanted to like it, and I was disappointed that I didn't.

Jo said...

Jeanette, yes, there was something lacking in the movie. Maybe it was the editing or something. It just didn't feel right. And it was very disturbing.

Mclndesm said...

I have 'wanted' to see Precious but yet I hesitate. It is available now On Demand. The fact that I have so much hesitation makes me question what am I afraid of? By no means do I shy away from deep sometimes very disturbing content but this movie seems to be unrelenting in it's darkness. I have experienced some of the darkness that is portrayed in this movie and wether I want to be reminded of it causes me to pause. I think the book "Push" by Sapphire(which the movie is based on) is so much more and one can control how much they take in while reading it. I do admire all the actors in "Precious", it had to be an incredibly hard project to do and kudos to them. I'm still on the fence and may decide to just skip it since I am traumatized just by the trailer and previews and what would I get out of it? What is my motive in seeing something like that especially when I have experienced some of the content up close and personal??

Elise said...

Haven't seen them but was interesting to read your post

Katy said...

JO- thanks for the review. I haven't seen the movie and to be honest, I haven't really wanted to because I've read those same reviewes.

20th Century Woman said...

I have not seen this movie, and after reading your review I don't think I want to. But your post makes me think that I should see more movies and pay greater attention to popular culture.

Breath-e said...

Jo, I appreciate the reasoning in your opinions. This movie wasn't on my "must see" list...very few movies are. I feel better leaving it off.

Brenda said...

I didn't really know much about this movie, so I just did a look around the internet for other reviews. Most of the ones I read are not very favorable. I am not real fond of movies where the subject is about abuse. That is just so disturbing to me. I hear enough about it on the evening news, just about every day. Very depressing. My heart really goes out to the victims.

Cloudia said...

Thanks for your honest review.


Aloha from Hawaii Jo


Comfort Spiral

Jo said...

McIndesm, yes, it was a dark subject, but there was something about it that felt exploitive (exploitative?). I can't put my finger on what it was. The only genuine characters, in my opinion, where the social worker and the teacher. Everyone else seemed like a caricature. Of course, I may be wrong -- I usually am -- but that was how the movie "felt" to me.

Elise, I can't say I would recommend it as one of the best movies I have ever seen.

Katy, it seems to me that extreme ugliness in subject matter is what prevails in movies nowadays. The uglier the movie, the more regard it seems to get. I don't understand it.

20th Century Woman, well, I always like to keep abreast of what is going on culturally, politically, etc. But sometimes it is not always pretty, is it? This movie certainly isn't. :-)

Breath-e (I love your avatar, by the way...) I wouldn't recommend paying money to see it. I watched it out of curiosity, but it's not on my top ten list, that's for sure.

Brenda, no, I think the abuse thing is being overdone. Of course it happens, and has always happened, but this movie was almost sickening.

Cloudia, aloha...! You're welcome. :-)

Teri said...

I have grown weary of Oprah. She seems to revel in being a victim or stories of people being victimized. Most of her book picks and movies she produces, one can be sure that some woman is going to have the snot beat out of her. Multiple times.

I don't need that. The movie isn't even on my "I'll see it if it's free" list.

Alicia said...

Well it's good to have this information. I've been wondering what the book is like. Has anyone read that? I believe the book was written by Saphire and was orginally called Push but was renamed to coincide with the movie.

While I know this is a big film and EVERYONE is talking about it; I hate to watch movies that are depressing. It it bothered you Jo then odds are it would bother me. Thanks for the review. I'll let you know if I read the book.

DJan said...

I have not seen the movie but I read the book. Since it was not easy reading, I don't think the movie could be worse, but unfortunately I did know that world existed, not personally, but I've known people in straits like that. To me, the book is the way to go, because then you can put it down...

SparkleFarkle said...

I'm pretty sure I'll never be up to watching Precious, as the promos shake me right down to my socks and out the toes. I'll exchange your movie heads up for mine: If you're an about-to-be-a viewer of District 9, proceed with extreme caution. To date, it is THE most disturbing (And I don't mean it "scared" me like a horror film is typically suppose to do.) movie I've ever witnessed. One scene in particular (alien prisoner target practice <-- Remember that photo of a summary execution by a South Vietnamese police chief, published during the Viet Nam War? <-- The graphic District 9 movie scene I'm referring to is too, TOO much like it, AND MOVING!) affected me so much, my daughter Puppet seriously thought she'd have to call an ambulance to get me home. I even had to leave the room during last Sunday night's televised Oscar show, when a clip from it was about to play!

Nezzy said...

Hand over those rose colored glasses baby, I like to live in la~la land where everything ends with happily ever after. This would probably not be a good film for me, but I am not a fan of many of the films the "experts" have chosen as the best of the best!

God bless and have a glorious day!!!

Land of shimp said...

Jo, I have a movie recommendation for you -- kind of an antidote to the ugly drama. I agree with you, by the way, the "grittier" the subject matter the better these days...but, you know, in terms of the world and what goes on it, I don't live under a rock. I've known real life human being who were horribly abused.

I like a serious movie from time to time, and I may end up watching Precious, but most of the time when I sit down to watch a movie? I wanted to indulge in a bit of escapism. Not fluff, escapism...which isn't the same thing. I usually want to travel to a different time, a different country, a different reality...a world different from my own...maybe even one I could admire, or find beautiful.

I will watch "serious" films...I liked Rachel Getting Married for instance. Actually, I love all kinds of films but that's the thing. I love all kinds. I feel like there's very little variety available.

I've got Up in the Air on Netflix...but the film I wanted to recommend to you is actually called The Winslow Boy. It's a truly fantastic film...and hardly anyone has seen it. It's rate G, for goodness sakes, but there's a lot more to it than a story about whether or not a boy stole a postal note.

Seriously, give it a try. It will wash this handily from your mind, refresh you...and take you to a world I think you'd like to see.

Jo said...

Teri, that does seem to be a recurring theme with Oprah, doesn't it, starting with "The Color Purple". I guess it's partly biographical.

Alicia, actually, it was awful. I thought the foul language in "Scarface" was bad, but in this movie it was disgusting. I don't see why that is necessary.

DJan, I had to stop the movie a few times too. It was just too much to take all in one sitting. It certainly was an eye-opener for me!

Sparkle, I saw "District 9" and with that one as well, I had to stop it a few times. But after a while I sort of got into it, and I was shocked by the ending. It shook me right down to my socks and out the toes. (What a wonderful expression!)

Nezzy, whatever happend to movies like "Out of Africa"? I wonder if Hollywood movies are just going to continue to get uglier and uglier. I sure hope not!

Alane, "The Winslow Boy"! Thank you. I have never heard of that movie. I will check it out. Another movie I saw recently that I enjoyed was "The Young Victoria" and it actually won an Oscar for best costumes. Emily Blunt played Victoria. She was in "The Devil Wears Prada" which was also a good movie. One of the movies nominated for an Oscar was "A Serious Man" by the Coen Brothers. I loved it. I also loved "Up" which was also nominated for best picture. You know, I do enjoy gritty sometimes, but I know when I am being manipulated, and "Precious" was manipulative.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, The Winslow Boy is about ten years old and ran into the strangest problem: It was appropriately rated G (no profanity, no swearing, no violence, at all) but it isn't a children's film. Children would be bored to death.

Let me know what you think if you get a chance to see it. I'm a fan of Emily Blunt's and saw her promoting the film a while back. Victoria and Albert had such an interesting relationship. There was a mini of that name a while ago which was sort of so-so. I've been waiting for Blunt's film to come out on DVD!

Boy, I bet that comes under the "You know you're kind of a geek...." category, "...when you can't wait for the new film about young Queen Victoria to come out on DVD."

JeannetteLS said...

I saw the movie. And I don't mind at ALL seeing movies that deal with abuse and violence--BUT, I want to see movies that are more about the journey FROM those places and, for me, "Precious" lived far more in what she endured than was necessary or even effective. We can hint, show ONE pivotal episode... The movie ends with hope, which I DID like, but the journey to get to that point was, for me overdone, overdrawn, and so explicit that I almost didn't believe the ending. They could have done MORE with her awakening in the second school, with the work by her social worker... to bring us to that point where she will have her children, it will be difficult, but we've SEEN HER PROGRESSION more fully.

I think, for me, it's as if Oprah et al figured that, for us to "GET IT" about what a moribundly obese African American girl who is abused by everyone around her has endured, we must literally see every moment of it, over and over.

All that does for me, in the film, is make me wonder how they can possibly offer hope in the last twenty minutes. It was disproportionately weighted on her pain, on the horror, the profanity, the poverty. And then they wrapped it all up at the end.

In the "Color Purple" was Whoopi's character gradually grow. We saw hints of her strength early on. We saw FULL characters, a story of one segment of America.. a repeating cycle that SHE broke out of, but also that Danny GLOVER broke out of.

Sorry. "Precious" Made me think of my own life. Others I read in blogs. To me, the stories that I want to ULTIMATELY write or READ are about how it is that love can triumph. Where are hte gifts we are given along the way and where can we look for them? Precious was given some gifts, but we are not shown them in ways that really allowed me to understand THOSE people, too. The newe teacher, The wonderful social worker. The new friends who saw her worth as time went on.

I've written too much. My friend and I, who both saw it, spent an hour and a half trying to pinpoint what fell flat for us.. plus, for me? As someone who endured a good part of what she did, but NOT, thank GOD, the poverty or the unrelenting quantity of violence, some of it was too difficult for me to see. And I've had years of help to recover.

People who've not had treatment or help dealing with violence and sexual abuse should NOT see this movie. It hurts. It brings up some terrible pain in its graphic nature.

I'll stop now...

Jennifer D said...

I was planning on watching both "The Hurt Locker" and "Precious" but I think I will be moving them from my queue. I LOVE my rose colored glasses and when I watch a movie I want to feel good. It probably says a lot that the only movies that were nominated for Oscars, that I had seen, were "UP" and "Julie/Julia" both of which were amazing. My husband has even rosier glasses than me.He will sit beside me through an entire movie, enjoying himself completely and when it ends, if it ends sadly, he will say "that movie sucked!". If we want to get depressed we can always watch the news, I want my movies to be an escape.
Thanks for your honest review Jo.

JeannetteLS said...

Julie/Julia... THAT is the movie I want to see...

Lilly said...

Thanks for that frank review of the movie. I have not seen it as yet but will do so and be prepared!

Holly said...

DH and I saw "Precious" last week. We enjoyed it (for the most part) - but found it disturbing. After the credits finished, we looked at each other - both of us were thinking of DH's niece. She also is 16 years, pregnant with her second child and while she can read and write, it is about the 3rd grade level. Her mother has bounced around relationships, has the husband of the year and boyfriend of the month, and the family moves a lot. New homes, new schools, new friends all the time. Until I saw the movie, it really didn't click for me how much the niece struggled and clarified why she just gave up on school. I knew rationally why she gave up - but the movie let me "feel" it more.
However - I think I'll stick with the "rose colored glasses" movies. Enough disturbing in real life without dragging it into our entertainment.
Holly

Mac the Mom said...

Mom, we just watched this: me, Brian and Phinneaus and we think this is probably the Best movie we have ever seen! And I would definitely recommend it to students under 18 years of age, and it didn't seem exploitative at all, but completely inspirational. If I was a principal, I would show it at a senior high assembly, no questions asked. Maybe bleep the f*bombs a bit tho". I think this girl's story is unbelievable. Deserves every accolade it has received.

Jo said...

Mac, gosh! Well, I thought the language was a bit much, yes, but for the most part I didn't care for the movie at all. I wanted to like it, but I didn't. Isn't that strange! I felt the same way about it that I did about "Slumdog Millionaire". And yes, it was a very sad story. If you get a chance, you should rent "Lemon Tree". That's a fabulous movie. The actress was also in "The Visitor".

Paula Slade said...

There were some remarkable performances in the film. I did not consider it "entertainment" - more a a story, and a reflection on real life that exists, and may never have been told otherwise.