30 November 2009

Precious (2009)

People have been talking about this movie, pushing it into the "must see" ranks. After watching it, I participated in three separate conversations about it. The first, huddled in Lilly's car post-movie, trying to come to terms with what we just saw. The second, in the parking lot outside my favorite ramen house, and then another extended conversation in my friends' living room later that night. This movie was made for talking.

First things first. The movie is good. It's done really well, the acting is incredible (Mo'Nique should win an Oscar), and I'm definitely glad I watched it. However, the buzz and pre-hype around the movie bothered me and I definitely didn't walk out thinking I'd just watched something illuminating or fantastic. I felt slightly manipulated and didn't feel much better after talking it out. Slate's Dana Stevens called it "poverty porn," and it's hard for me to disagree.

Precious depicts and showcases a lot of issues that should give it weight. Emotional abuse, rape, incest, poverty, physical violence, the education system, etc. It's a laundry list of things and part of me recognizes that while all these terrible things do happen, some of it felt over the top. Then again, one of my friends pointed out that she knows people who go through these things, in combinations more intense and numerous, so perhaps I'm just overly sheltered and unaware. Still, it felt like a game of "how low can you go."

A few critics have come out harshly against the movie, some pointing out that the movie is receiving the highest praise from mostly white audiences and that it's reinforcing negative stereotypes of black America. I watched it in Hillcrest, with a crowd of older white folk, and I think the experience would have been very different with say, a black audience. There was a hearty round of clapping as the crowds rolled and nary a boo.
"Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clich├ęs (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show."
-Pride & Precious-
Anyway, take a cruise through the reviews about this movie, both good and bad. And then we'll talk because there's a lot to talk about. Which makes it a worthwhile movie, I guess.

And yes, that is Robin Thicke's wife, Paula Patton. And does she not look just like Alicia Keys? I know it's not just me.