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Movies: 'We Are All Precious'

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Nathaniel would live inside a movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience.


You're barely a reel into Lee Daniel's Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) before you begin to realize that maybe Job didn't have it so bad after all. Claireece "Precious" Jones is suffering. She's obese, she's a welfare mother of a disabled child, she's pregnant again, kicked out of high school, her parents abuse her, neighborhood kids taunt her. She's illiterate on top of that... as the twee incorrectly spelled opening credits foreshadow.

Picture 2 Before too long, though, "Precious" has enrolled in an alternate school for girls who are slipping through the cracks. She blossoms, as much as a continually trampled living thing can, under the guidance of a new teacher (Paula Patton). The further she steps away from her nightmare home life, the more she begins to see new possible futures. It's already hell at home but her abusive mentally ill mother Mary (Mo'Nique in an Oscar-winning performance... four months from now that is, just wait) is ready to drag her to the next circle when she realizes her meal ticket is transforming into a girl that might actually fly away.

Add a third party (Mariah Carey's weary social worker, miles from Glitter) to this tug of war for Claireece's soul, and you have an absolutely riveting drama. For all of the misery, the film is remarkably energizing.

Picture 5 Because Precious is so vividly felt, staged and acted (it's a sure fire Oscar contender) and because the tub-thumping for the movie comes from a bullseye as big as Oprah Winfrey, whose every recommendation seems to be treated with disdain in some corners (despite a track record  that's not entirely disdain-worthy... just hit and miss like anyone else's verbal thumbs up) reactions to Precious will undoubtedly be just as vividly delivered.

MORE on Precious and other films, AFTER THE JUMP...

It's true that there are many cracks in the artful construction of Precious. But like its heroine, beautifully played by first time screen actress Gabourey Sidibe, it proves unexpectedly resilient. It never breaks down while walking its risky path. At times out director Lee Daniels doesn't seem able to reign in his most flamboyant impulses -- a black and white Italian sequence. Really? -- but it's doubtful the film would work as well without Claireece's fantastical escapes from reality which manage to be moving and troubling simultaneously. The segments at school bring the film welcome humor and happiness, but Paula Patton's leans too hard on the saintliness of her lesbian teacher. But on the other hand, teachers who finally do reach students seem like angels to those students, don't they? Mo'Nique's frightening portrayal of an unstable mother is so effectively imagined and shaded that the actress sometimes threaten to dominate even the scenes she isn't in. But why shouldn't she? Claireece has been living under Mary's sickness and oppression all her life, why shouldn't her presence unbalance upset and threaten to topple the entire forward thrust of this character journey?

In a lesser film the parade of misery might also feel exploitative but there are few moments in Precious that aren't thoroughly suffused with the humanity. It's almost as if the movies blood sweat and tears are rushing in to seal up every crack or arguable stumble in the rough telling. Many moviegoers are about to fall hard for Precious's throbbing humanity and hard won optimism. Maybe you will, too.

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Now we'll have to moodswing like Mary to finish this week's post...

 road Also Opening: Oscar-seeking Hal Holbrook (recently nominated for Into the Wild) and Ray McKinnon (Deadwood) are both terrific as two men warring over a farm in the well judged indie drama That Evening Sun; Cameron Diaz and James Mardsen must make a high concept movie choice in The Box. Should they press a button that kills a stranger in order to receive one million dollars? The things people will do in movies for a cool million. (Sleeping with Robert Redford for the money seems a lot less morally objectionable. Calling Demi Moore!); Jim Carrey gets Scrooged in the 257,392nd version of A Christmas Carol. How many have you seen? My question is one of medium: Jim Carrey's face is already inhumanly flexible...why does that face need the extra flexibility that animation provides?; The latest scary movie, The Fourth Kind, concerns alien abductions; and The Men Who Stare At Goats gathers a top tier male cast (George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey) for some snarky war games... jedi war games.


Picture 34  road "The Ten Gayest Freeze Frames From the Hannah Montana Movie"... Awww, cowboy twink.

 road Robert Pattison underwear? You go too far, Twilight. You go too far.

 road If you're into gay zombies (no judgments!) you can follow Bruce LaBruce's (Hustler White, The Raspberry Reich) wild shooting diaries from the ultra low budget LA Zombie, starring François Sagat, his undead horror/porn follow up to Otto, Or Up With Dead People.

 road When Pedro Met Penelope. The great director Pedro Almodóvar and Oscar winner Penélope Cruz have been making the rounds promoting Broken Embraces. More on their famous collaborative relationship at the NY Times.

 road Will Ninja Assassin make Rain, Korea's Justin Timberlake if you will, into a bigger star in the US? Surely he hopes so with those Vegas concerts coming up. 'are you gonna a bad boy / are you gonna be a bad bad boy?'

Picture 36  road Remember when paparazzi caught Dolph Lundgren nude on the beach this summer? (nsfw) This week the 80s action star turned 52. I celebrated reminiscing about the years when he was always nekked. Like good action stars should be. Ah, Showdown In Little Tokyo.

 road Do you love bad movies? Thankfully there's lots of so-bad-it's-good appreciations on the internet. While I was in Little Tokyo, Stale Popcorn hilariously skewered Babs's self-aggrandizing fantasy The Mirror Has Two Faces this week. Read it and weep laugh.

You'll probably need to if you've just seen Precious.

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  1. I typically like my Mo'Nique talking about butt sex ... still, Precious is on my must-see list.

    'Course, I have no idea if it's coming to my city.

    Posted by: crispy | Nov 6, 2009 4:19:02 PM

  2. I hope "Precious" is a success. It would be great to see another openly gay filmmaker (Lee Daniels) have a hit...artistically too, not just box office.

    Hey, CRISPY, maybe we can get TANK to go with us to see "Precious". We'll all meet in Atlanta. After the movie we'll drop him off in Hotlanta's roughest black neighborhood. No mo' TANK.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Nov 6, 2009 4:31:32 PM

  3. I'm looking forward to see precious.

    Posted by: davefromtampa | Nov 6, 2009 5:41:31 PM

  4. I didn't want to see this because I can't stand Mariah Carrey, but I just watched the trailer 3 times and must say evreyone in it is just amazing, the movie looks like Oscar gold...can't wait, and I'm bringing tissues.

    Posted by: john | Nov 6, 2009 5:43:55 PM

  5. It might have been nice if you had mentioned the name of the actress playing Precious.

    Posted by: wisebear | Nov 6, 2009 5:51:33 PM

  6. Everyone, I urge you read this feature article about "Precious" in a recent issue of New York Times Magazine. "The Audacity of Precious." A really well-written and enlightening read.

    Gabourey Sidibe and this movie, I hope, will be a name on everyone's lips in the next couple of months come award season.

    Posted by: Julius | Nov 6, 2009 6:19:30 PM

  7. wisebear... omg. GABBY! my apologies. i shall amend.

    crispy... i don't imagine it will be long if they're smart about it. it's supposedly rocking it in its 3 cities (sold out sold out sold out) so they should add more soon.

    Posted by: Nathaniel R | Nov 6, 2009 7:49:16 PM

  8. CH 7 here in LA just gave it a great review.

    All the performances look wonderful.

    Posted by: Tralfaz | Nov 6, 2009 7:51:47 PM

  9. I'm curious to see Mo'nique and Mariah Carey.

    Posted by: Mark | Nov 6, 2009 9:09:51 PM

  10. Meh. Bruce la bruce is just not compelling without hardcore sex in his movies (or...with). And that means, basically, that he's not compelling. Precious...I want to see the box. That looks like fun. Frank Langella's one of my favorite actors (9th gate was awesome!).

    Posted by: TANK | Nov 6, 2009 9:16:31 PM

  11. I hope precious does well awards wise.

    But for me personally it just looks too depressing to watch.


    Tank, I agree 9th gate was/is awesome.

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Nov 6, 2009 9:43:46 PM

  12. I'm glad nobody here is knocking Oprah for backing this movie (even though yeah, she only supported it AFTER it was made and in the can).

    A movie like this won't succeed in the 'white women' demographic without her support, so I'm glad this is all working out thus far in terms of media coverage.

    Posted by: Drew | Nov 6, 2009 11:03:41 PM

  13. I saw 'Precious' at a Frameline screening this past Monday. It's incredible. Everyone is amazing, including Mariah Carey (who I really don't care for. She's fantastic in this).
    There is a lit of heartbreak but so much love as well. Mo'Nique is BRILLIANT, as is Gabby Sidibe.

    Posted by: JimmyDj | Nov 6, 2009 11:16:07 PM

  14. From Drew: A movie like this won't succeed in the 'white women' demographic without her support, so I'm glad this is all working out thus far in terms of media coverage

    Gee thanks Girl, I don't think they were going to see it anyway. Oprah or not. It's not that druggie Lindsay, or Paris or none of them chicks!

    It will do fine with or without them!

    Posted by: Chris | Nov 7, 2009 6:44:42 AM

  15. I'm knocking Oprah AND I'm knocking that drag queen closet case.

    Who died and made them Hall Monitors?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 7, 2009 10:08:03 AM

  16. Wow, and all this coming right on the heels of the outrage over David Mixner's use of the term "Gay Apartheid".

    So I guess all of us who don't fit in the context of the characters of this movie....should just move along...nothing to see wouldn't understand anyway....?

    Posted by: Beef and Fur | Nov 7, 2009 12:12:44 PM

  17. Miss Divav Errorstein

    What the fuck are you talking about Hall Monitors?

    Posted by: New Castle | Nov 7, 2009 2:48:40 PM

  18. So go ask for your fucking money back!


    Posted by: Chrissy P | Nov 7, 2009 3:57:04 PM

  19. ya know, I coulda sworn I saw the actor in precious in hook. Or was it old school? I dunno, I get confused when I wanna be.

    Posted by: TANK | Nov 7, 2009 3:57:56 PM

  20. And that's very obvious!

    Posted by: Chrissy P | Nov 7, 2009 5:19:12 PM

  21. this movie is stealth bomb.
    listen to the few hating stemmers up in these comments!
    filibuster b*tches are too tardy to the party
    but the party parties on!
    oh well
    sunshine is the best disinfectant!

    Posted by: princessjohnson | Nov 7, 2009 7:25:43 PM

  22. Read all the reviews then went to see it yesterday afternoon. Yes, the acting is amazing and Oscar-worthy. Having said that, the heavyhanded realism borders on unintentional dark comedy and the movie feels as though it has to race through a laundry list of ailments (incest, illiteracy, child abuse, poverty, welfare, violance...)within a 90 minute time frame. So I feel mixed about this one.

    Posted by: yogchick | Nov 8, 2009 2:21:45 AM

  23. wow, Mariah Carey is willing to appear on a movie without make up??????

    Posted by: caelus | Nov 8, 2009 2:56:59 AM

  24. I saw the movie last night and want to thank Nathaniel for his great review -- and by great not in the sense that the review is so positive but, rather, in the sense that I think the review is the most insghtful and articulate one I've read. My own reaction to the film is somewhere between Nathaniel's and Yogchick's, and I agree with most everyone who can't praise the performances enough.
    Anyone who enjoys thoughtful, non-formulaic movies should definately see Precious and judge for themselves. Opinions of Oprah, Tyler Perry, Mo'nique, Marriah Carey and other famous people involved in the film shouldn't matter. Apart from the wonderful leading actress, Gabourney Sidibe, the most important person involved with is Lee Daniels, the director and producer. The NY Times Magazine article about him, that Julius provides the above link to, is really good if you want to know more about him and all the attention the film has received at various film festivals.
    One small point: I'm not a Mariah Carey fan, but she is excellent. I work for the NYC government, and I can tell you her performance as an overworked, detached but ultimately sympathetic city social worker totally nailed it -- totally believable. I really hope she does some more serious character acting in interesting films.

    Posted by: Michael J | Nov 8, 2009 1:52:49 PM

  25. How are we all Precious? I guess I can only speak for myself, but I think it's pretty safe to say that the vast majority of the audience: are not morbidly obese, do not have HIV, have never been fucked by their father, can read beyond the 1st grade level, and don't steal a bucket of fried chicken on their way to school.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel this movie was a load of pretentious crap that bordered on parody. It was ghetto pornography basically. Sure, the acting was phenomenal, but their talents were wasted on a manipulative script and flamboyantly portrayed suffering.

    And would someone please explaint this to me: Why was there a scene showing Precious's mother masturbating? What was the point of that?

    Posted by: yogchickchick | Nov 8, 2009 7:26:24 PM

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