SOCIAL ANGST is more than just a blog, it is an invitation to aid in the building of wealth through the shared task of information distribution and discussion. It is a call to engage – engage in society, engage with your peers, engage in your political system, engage in spreading the wealth that is information, and engage in multiplying that wealth through discussion – so that collectively we may become more socially aware, more socially responsible, more socially vocal and ultimately more socially valuable.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Review: Precious -
Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

From a cinematic standpoint, I have nothing but admiration for Precious. Many fans of the novel thought it would be impossible to bring the gritty, dark, dysfunctional life of Precious Jones to life but screenplay writer Geoffrey Fletcher achieves near technical precision with his purist adaptation of Push for the big screen. The story is translated seamlessly under the watchful direction of Lee Daniels, who never strays very far from the essence of Push. Daniel does wield some creative license (notably the addition of several fantasy sequences) however, it is used sparingly throughout the film and only as a means to balance the tense subject matter.

Casting is another highlight of the film. Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is casting perfection as Clarice Precious Jones. On first appearance one might assume that Sidibe is simply the result of hollywood type-casting. The dark skinned, overweight actress, is a visual doppelganger for the Precious character, however that is where the similarities end. In reality, with beautiful dark skin, small but expressive eyes and larger than life confidence, Sidibe is the actually the antithesis of Precious; yet on camera and in character she convincingly captures every impotent, frail, and painful moment Precious must struggle through. Sidibe tackles the emotional peaks and valleys of her character like a pro and her audience is left with a tremendous sense of empathetic understanding because of it.

Surrounding Sibide is a truly commanding ensemble cast. Mo’nique gives a powerful performance as Mary, the wildly abusive, deranged, miserable wretch of a woman who gave birth to Precious (I cannot in good conscience call this character a mother). Fueled by self-hatred, Mary molests, mangles, and drains the soul out of Precious at every given opportunity. Two other strong performances come from Paula Patton as Ms. Rain, an alternative school teacher who helps Precious find self-worth, and Mariah Carey as Mrs. Weiss, a social worker who helps Precious face her circumstances.

The film has near perfect pitch. The characters are easy to identify with, root for, or alternatively despise. It is alarming, humorous, empathetic, raw, and disarming all at once, making for true cinematic achievement.

Yet, Precious is not perfect.

There are several aspects of the book that are lost in translation from page to screen and these subtle misinterpretations rob the film of some authenticity. First, moviegoers are cheated out the chance to truly delve into the world of an illiterate. The novel Push was published in unedited broken English. Through the grammarless dialogue and phonetic spelling, readers are able to see just how sadly underdeveloped Precious is academically. The movie is far less successful in that area (so much so that the audience around me laughed while witnessing a class of 16-year olds learning their ABCs – completely oblivious to the socioeconomic hardships and systematic devaluation of illiterate and uneducated individuals).

The depiction of sexual abuse was also disappointing. The unholy acts of incest that were graphically detail in the book were replaced in the film with far less explicit visual elusion. As a result, the audience can only vaguely identify with the trifecta of abuse that Precious endured.

Yet, even with the slight creative changes, Precious is a truly worthwhile endeavor for movie patrons. Audience members have the opportunity to learn a lot about themselves as they watch the film. Precious will challenge your own biases – about poor people, overweight people, uneducated people and people without mainstream aesthetic appeal. For those who believe that ignorance is a personal choice brought on by bad decisions, this movie will also challenge you to see that some people – people who want to learn, work hard and thrive - are born into bad circumstances that are impossible to escape without help. But most importantly, Precious will hopefully challenge you to see how neighborly love and philanthropy of spirit can change the lives of those around us.

Social Angst encourages you to see the movie...and then read the book!

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