Friday, December 18, 2009

Precious (Rhoades)

“Precious” Promises Oscar Nomination
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Not exactly a warm and fuzzy Christmas tale, unless you want to mutter “Bah! Humbug!” and compare this story of an obese, uneducated ghetto gal with Ebenezer Scrooge’s discovery that there is hope for a brighter future.

Best to take it for what it is: A story about overcoming all odds.

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

We are introduced to Clareece Precious Jones, a 16-year-old Harlem homegirl with no prospects, and pregnant with her second child. Nonetheless she has dreams. “I want to be on the cover of a magazine. I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with good hair. But first I want to be in one of those BET videos,” she tells us in her halting dialect.

Escaping into fantasy is her only refuge from the hard, sad life she lives.
“Nobody loves me!” cries the girl.

Her teacher (Paula Patton) replies, “People do love you, Precious.”

“Don’t lie to me!” wails the girl. “Love ain’t done nothing for me! Love beat me down! Made me feel worthless!”

After all, her mother mentally and physically abuses her. And her father has impregnated her twice.

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe gives a convincing performance as Precious. But it is Mo’Nique as her mother who might wind up with an Oscar.

In surprising dramatic roles are singers Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz.
I used to see Kravitz and his then-wife Lisa Bonet in the elevator when I visited a friend’s apartment on Christopher Street in New York’s East Village. Bonet was an actress, but he was merely a musician. This is his first feature film role.

As the title proclaims, the movie is based on a book by Sapphire. Born Ramona Lofton, she worked as an exotic dancer, a performance artist, and a social worker before immersing herself in writing poetry. “Push” is her first novel, a long unpublished manuscript until being discovered by a literary agent.

Director Lee Daniels says, “I read the book, and it just left me gasping for air. I couldn’t believe it. My mouth was open as I turned page after page. I was like, ‘What the [bleep]?’ And yet it was so truthful. I had never seen truth written in such a way. So, I had to have it. I became obsessed with it like a lover. I slept with it under my pillow.”

From his experiences of his own childhood, he identified with the abuse in the storyline. “It’s certainly something that I identify with,” Daniels says. “But through the abuse and through the darkness, I actually identify more with the sense of loving yourself, of finding self-love and ultimately loving yourself.”

Casting Gabby Sidibe was key. “I interviewed over 400 girls before I found her. She blew me away. Her smarts is what did it. She’s so smart!”

But comedian Mo’Nique’s performance was the mindblower.

Daniels recalls, “At the end of this thing, I said to Mo'Nique, ‘This is award-worthy.” He oughta know, having produced “Monster’s Ball,” which won an Academy Award for Halle Berry.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for Best Drama. And supporting actress Mo’Nique was tapped for a Special Jury Prize.

As for that Oscar? The film is “presented by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.” Can’t get a better endorsement than that.
[from Solares Hill]

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