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The Auteurs Daily: NYFF. Precious

The Auteurs Daily

Precious

"As in Monster's Ball, which he produced, and his first feature, the equally odious Shadowboxer, [Lee] Daniels emphasizes only the worst in human nature, and does so in a way that flatters rather than confronts the prejudices of his liberal audience." Ed Gonzalez in Slant: "One for the Stuff White People Like canon, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is an impeccably acted piece of trash - an exploitation film that shamelessly strokes its audience's sense of righteous indignation."

It "is, in theory, the miserable story of the titular 300-pound teenage girl (Gabby Sidibe), who's raped into having two children by her dad and abused by her mother (Mo'Nique) until she meets an inspirational teacher (Paula Patton) who changes her life," writes Vadim Rizov for IFC. "In practice, the New York Film Festival's centerpiece film is a slickly effective melodrama - the kind of movie where a dream sequence of someone having her ear kissed inevitably means a dog's actually licking it, but also a world where a little soul music and a few platitudes actually convey tremendous meaning."

"There are those who will moan and groan about the difficulty of sitting through an aggressive social-issues film, and leave unmentioned the inexplicable, sometimes confusing nature of its pleasures," writes Andrew Chan in Reverse Shot. "Precious is in some sense a failure, but it manages to be an exciting showcase for its actors, most whom are not known for their ability to carry dramatic material."

"First-time actress Sidibe has a very tough role: a lifetime of disappointments has hardened Precious' exterior, but Sidibe has to also show us frustration simmering beneath her superficial stoicism." IFC's Matt Singer: "Still, it's Mo'Nique's performance that stays with you. And it's more than just blustery anger - her powerful final monologue, delivered in long takes while the camera remains locked on her in close-up, reveals Mary as a pitiful soul trying not to lose control of the one thing in her life over which she has any power. Mo'Nique's fiery, touching performance makes us reconsider our preconceptions about the character, not to mention about her as an actress."

"Precious heralds a new kind of blaxploitation," announces Simon Abrams in the L Magazine. "If any film really deserved to be flippantly dismissed as 'poverty porn,' Precious is it."

For Time Out New York's David Fear, "What this little-drama-that-could accomplishes is nothing short of a miracle: It turns a warhorse tale about overcoming social disadvantages and overall adversity into a dark, devastating and ultimately uplifting story that somehow feels totally singular."

Updates, 10/7: "Ultimately, in spite of what I was anticipating, I couldn't help but admire Daniels's gall," writes Leo Goldsmith at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. "After all, Hollywood message picture clichés notwithstanding, it's not every day you see a movie about a poor 300-lb black girl. But more importantly, this film could really give a shit about my reaction, whether it's admiration or smug, derisive laughter. Daniels knows who his audience is, and it's not me. But he has an enormous faith in that audience's ability to roll with his outlandish, bombastic, brutalizing punches, and the canniness to pull most of them off."

"In what will undoubtedly take the cake as being the most disturbing viral marketing campaign for any movie this year," reports Movieline's Seth Abramovitch, "Tyler Perry, in a recent message on his website, described the first time he watched Precious, and how it opened a spigot of repressed memories from a childhood wrought with unthinkable abuses."

Update, 10/15: "My problem: how to acknowledge the problems of this film without pandering to what I view as a possibly knee-jerk dislike of it." Lisa Rosman explains.

Update, 10/23: "Daniels knows what he's selling: his films combine street-smart bravado with an art-house sensibility." Lynn Hirschberg's big NYT Magazine piece.

NYFF 09: Index; full coverage.

Ed Gonzalez’s review is typically astute, but I think he’s not quite on it when he puts the film into the “Stuff White People Like canon;” from what I’ve heard, it’s more like “Stuff White People Are Afraid To Admit They Didn’t Like” category. Haven’t seen it myself, and am not in a hurry to.

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