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How sad is Precious?

November 27, 2009
by

Apparently, not very

When Hotel Rwanda came out I remember avoiding seeing it for over a year, despite the hysteria, because everyone told me it was sad as hell. I did the same with Before Sunrise, Eternal Sunshine, Leaving Las Vegas, Requiem For A Dream, and other generally depressing films. Of course, I went on to love all of these movies because they were sombre in a way that made me feel something.

Precious has been marketed as a movie that is, in short, fucked up. Clearly, that’s right up my masochistic alley so I guess I had to see it (plus a combination of factors including hype, buzz, and an unconventional protagonist). And because I’m fastidious like that, I read the book (Push by Sapphire) beforehand. Two words: God damn.

I know that book-to-film adaptations have to condense and contort in order to convey, but what happens when you completely change the tone of the original work? That’s my sense of Precious. To be sure, the book is mad bleak. All of those themes you’ve heard about—physical abuse, emotional abuse, incest, illiteracy, teen pregnancy, obesity, blackness—are what defines the novel, and on that American Psycho (book, not movie) level of discomfort. Like, the words themselves are too much.

Expectations are a bitch, I guess. I didn’t wear mascara on purpose expecting I’d end up looking really gross post-film if I cried my eyes out, but tears never materialized. Instead I got a 110-minute Oprah-esque uplifting story about a fat, pregnant, abused black girl, instead of the real shit that can happen to fat, pregnant, abused black girls. Yes, there was a scene that literally made the entire theatre gasp, and Mo’Nique (despite all that other mess) was extra commanding as the mother of Precious, and messed up stuff did play out. But instead of being an emotionally draining, effective experience, Precious played out like one of The Oprah Show’s new-age narratives on “overcoming adversity.”

I’m not writing about crying. This is about a movie promoted as important and groundbreaking, actually not being that important or groundbreaking at all. What’s the point of tackling tough ideas on film if it all gets the same white-washed (literally) treatment in the end? Precious avoids the sadness, black-ness and gloom that Push explores, pandering to viewers by pushing an affected, Hollywood agenda instead of its stated sadness. Yo, there’s something cathartic about a good cry, and Precious didn’t deliver.

So I come to what you really wanted to know: HOW SAD IS IT? Well, if the best part of your day is the self-help triple bill featuring Opes, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, then stock up on quicker-picker-upper. Perhaps you’re more middle-of-the-road; The Notebook did you in, but not til that scene (you know what I’m talking about). And if you’re No Heart like me, just keep your scoffing to a minimum.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Rehana permalink
    November 28, 2009 12:08 am

    yeah i second that.
    ugh, the more i think about that movie the more i can’t stand it.
    anyway, push came in the mail today so i’m going to read that right after i finish the third installment of Walter Moers and all his wackiness, or maybe i should read that after push…

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