Monday 7 February 2011

Precious (2009) - Lee Daniels

Watching Precious, I can't help but compare the English and American styles of social realism.  We English, we're a bit grim really.  Our social realism films tend to be gritty and tragic.  Even feel-good films like Billy Elliot have their dark moments.  Hollywood, though, tends to sugarcoat tragedy, cushioning the audience for a safe landing. 

Case in point: Precious.  It's the story of a morbidly obese black teenage girl, abused by her mother, raped by her father, bullied by all she meets and unable to read and write.  Can things get any worse?  Most of the darker moments are smothered with fantasy - fluffy sequences of Precious dreaming of celebrity.  As a result, the film doesn't quite have the emotional weight it aspires to achieve.  More so, despite some shocking moments, you never get the sense that things won't be alright in the end, diminishing their effect to melodrama.  It's all a bit preachy.  Precious' literacy teacher is bathed in angelic light, always read and willing to give us all a hug.

The performances are all a little one-dimensional.  Gabourey Sidibe's performance has been lauded, but she's given little to do but mumble incoherently.  The other characters, too, lack depth and realism, though they're performed competently enough. 

Ultimately, Precious attempts to tackle a number of sensitive issues but treats its subject matter like a precious stone, rather than a rough diamond.