Double Review: Push and Precious

Last night, I decided to watch Precious, the motion picture based on the movie Push, written by Sapphire. This film premiered at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival and since then has found a home among the other contenders for the 2010 Academy Awards. Mo’Nique, a comedienne and talk show host on BET gives a raw, unforgiving performance as Mary, mother to Precious, played by Gadourey Sidibe. Gone is the glamour and spark that Mo’Nique is known for, same can be said of Mariah Carey, who also plays a social worker in the film. Sheri Sheppard and Lenny Kravitz are among the other celebrities who round out this cast. The movie deserves every bit of attention it is getting from critics who believe it will clean up at the awards ceremonies to be held between now and the Oscars. Even though the movie was based on the book, something was lost in its translation to the screen. The movie, excellent in its portrayal of the characters had the potential to go even farther to share this story.

The movie starts out introducing you to Precious, an uninspired student who you learn is pregnant with her second child by her father and is about to be kicked out of school. You meet her mother, get an appetite for the live she lives, her level of intelligence, and her self-hatred. I find the movie spends considerable time with Precious at the alternative school, bonding with the girls and how she deals withthe birth of her second child. Interwoven between these scenes, you get a sense of Precious’ whimsical side and her image of beauty – the dream of being skinny, white, with long hair beautiful with a light skinned boyfriend. By the end of the movie, Precious comes to terms with her situation and life continues.

In contrast, the book contained more explicit details about the birth of her first child and her experiences with her father which would have added more intensity to the movie.  I imagine that Sapphire is knee deep in flack from the community about the way she has portrayed black life in Harlem. The movie glosses over the actual sexual experience of the incest for Precious that may have added another element to the film. Sapphire takes you into Precious’ head and body in the book, asking you to understand that even though this experience is untolerable, the young girl still derives sexual satisfaction during the act which shapes why she is conflicted about her father. The film also does not go into too much detail of the birth of the first child; it is a flashback in the book and the first meeting for her and John (played by Lenny Kravitz) in the film. John and Precious have a closeness in the film that would have been defined as plutonic had they spent more on the birth of the first child, “Mongo”. When the teacher asks Precious to ‘push’ herself, it’s the only other time that she had heard that phrase aside from having her first baby, hence it would have been key to add more information around the first birth.

All in all, it was still an excellent movie. I am coming at it with the book fresh in mind having only completed it 2 weeks ago. I expect ‘Precious’ to push its way to the podium in 2010. Go see this movie.

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