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Precious

Precious is a bad, bad film. I find it extraordinary that critics have peppered this exalted, scab-peeling TV movie with such abundant plauditry. The direction fluctuates between kids TV-standard dream montages that make your toes curl, docu-reconstruction-level pieces and grime-filtered hovel-hovering. The whole thing feels like a strand of extended sequences from a forgotten episode of a mid-ranking cop show with a conscience. And it could, should, have been a compulsive chart of an admirable, besieged, resilient and ultimately triumphant heroine.

The story itself is a good one, and you’re always onside, which makes the dim direction that much more difficult to understand. This kind of material doesn’t need tricks, directorial grandstanding or distractions from the heart-rending subject matter. It’s harrowing stuff in many ways, and it often feels like the director has pulled away from it a little, and hasn’t got the conviction to spend too long on the depressing stuff. So he tries to put a resoundingly cheap visual stamp on it when he should really get out of the way and stay there. Even in the midst of Precious tearing out of her mother’s craphole with her baby clasped to her, you can be excused for thinking, ‘Who came up with THAT idea? Slow-mo, at this point? Really?’ There’s a scene near the start of the film where the use of quick-zoom (with requisite delirium tremens unsteady-cam) beggars belief. You get it: the aim is fraught immediacy and frayed authenticity. The result is you thinking about the shoddy introduction of shaky-cam for gravitas when you should be following the story. A trashy, daft intervention that’s hardly a rare occurence.

Mo’Nique is very good indeed (despite getting a bit hammy in her final scene) and most of the performances are fine. Mariah Carey is surprisingly adept and even Lenny Kravitz turns up us a male nurse, thoughtfully without his guitar. Gabourey Sidibe deserves a lot of credit for pulling her performance off, and gets most of her scenes right without ever looking like an Oscar recipient.

In the end, the film just doesn’t work, and I wanted it to. There’s little better than getting behind an independent film such as this and getting as many people as possible to file through the cinema, glad to have sidestepped the latest clunky conveyor rubbish. Unfortunately, there’s little worse than a film in the hands of a bereft, guileless director that leans far too heavily on goodwill and basically fritters away an opportunity to make a serious dent in the prevailing momentum of expensive crap. The film has had a lot of its rough-edges worn away by over-zealous amateurisms and often feels like a nothing wearing a badge, but it has, somehow, made a bit of a splash at the awards round-up.  Once the feelgood Oprah machine has wound down a little, Precious will be parked up in the late-night television graveyard, and that’s a shame.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Mary
    March 26, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    dear Lee – I seem to have a portal to your film page which is mine alone. I haven’t seen Precious nor am I that keen having seen a clip of an inspiring teacher ( beauteous and young) about to do her shtick on poor old Precious – I thought I was watching a rerun of Fame. As an old and unbeauteous teacher I know from experience just how unlikely that would be…… Can you please hurry up and see Shutter Island as I’ve seen that and I’d be interested to hear your opinion

  2. March 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Hey, you’re always welcome here, Mary – it’s just us! Keep your comments coming!

    I’m glad someone else was far from overwhelmed by a much touted film which is, amongst other things and as you rightly say, ridiculous. In so many ways. And it’s funny you should ask about Shutter Island…..

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