Thursday, December 17, 2009

injaynesworld we applaud "The Power of 'Precious'..." A Review

"Precious" is the name of the main character in this movie so powerfully portrayed by newcomer Gabourey Sidbe.  Remember that name.  You will be hearing it a lot as award season ramps up in the weeks to come.

Poor, illiterate, obese, and full of anger, 16-year-old Precious lives in Harlem with a mother so horrifically abusive as to be anyone’s worst nightmare.  The film opens with our discovery that Precious is pregnant with her second child by her father who has repeatedly raped her throughout her young lifetime.   Blessedly, this monster is featured only minimally in the film.

"Hey, Jayne!  Sign me up.  That's just the kind of movie I want to see at Christmas time," you are no doubt saying.  Bear with me.

While your initial reaction to Precious may be repulsion and the temptation to reject her outright strong, anyone who has ever felt a lack of self-worth or the sting that comes from the harsh judgment and put-downs of others will surely see a bit of themselves in her journey.

Much of the story is told in Precious’ own voice.  Often in film this technique can be intrusive, but as used here it is an important and necessary part of the storytelling because despite her grim circumstances, Precious’ mind is an extraordinary place to be, albeit one so shut down as to bar our entry by any other method.   It is a place that, through fantasy, has allowed her to survive.   A place that still houses the will and determination that we know as the human spirit.

With the transfer of Precious to a special school, the film plants a seed of hope and we see her spirit slowly begin to reawaken.  We root for her, because if she can make it is there anything we can’t accomplish?

Here then is a preview of the film.   I'm going to get some eggnog, then we'll talk...

So why would I suggest this as a must-see film for Christmas?   And, no.   It’s not because I’ve gone off my meds.

Traditionally, in Christianity anyway, Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ, or God in human form, or the great “I AM,” whatever personal meaning that may have for you.  To me it means that spark in each of us that is unique and eternal despite how life’s hardships may sometimes appear to suffocate its light, and that spark is what drives this film. 

Every time Precious is knocked to the ground, she gets up more determined than ever.  Some may say it’s anger that motivates that determination, but anger can drive a person to retaliation,  to self-destruction, and those aren’t the paths she takes.  This is what fascinates me about the character.  Outwardly, there is no logical reason for her to not just give up.

Whenever the tiniest crack opens to reveal an opportunity for salvation, Precious courageously steps through it.  She doesn’t know where it will lead her, but she does so on faith.   It takes courage and faith to change one’s life and claim one’s dignity.   Precious is an unlikely hero in that regard but, again, that dichotomy is what draws us to the character.  Hard to watch?   Sometimes.  Worthy of the effort?   Most definitely. 

While the film doesn’t wrap its message up in the end like a Hallmark made-for-TV-movie, “Precious” is a testament to the power of the human spirit to triumph even in the darkest of circumstances.   

If Christmas is about the birth of a savior, then perhaps the lesson in “Precious” is that we’ve all been given the ability to save ourselves.

If you leave a comment a star will rise in the west.  Yeah, you know that’s not gonna happen…

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