I first heard about the film Precious: Based on the novel called “Push” by Sapphire while covering New York Fashion Week’s in February 2008. Director Lee Daniels, producer Sarah Siegel-Magness and newcomer actress Gabourey Sidibe were backstage at one of the shows I covered and we were introduced. I already knew Lee from Monster’s Ball, not that he remembered me. His new project didn’t interest me much. Instead, I wondered if Mariah Carey, who is in the film and a good friend of Sarah’s, would show as I had been told she would. Little did I know that the movie I didn’t give a darn about would turn in to what will undoubtedly become one of the most talked about films this year. I attended a screening last night (thank you neighbor Angela) and tell you that this is one you don’t want to miss.
I went into the theater thinking the movie would be too sad and wondering if it would be a box-office flop like Beloved because moviegoers don’t often rush to see depressing films — especially one dealing with incest, physical and mental abuse and a character, frankly, as unattractive as Gabby. We want to feel good, especially when our portfolios no longer do thanks to the economic downtown, and look at pretty people. I never saw a trailer for the film. I just knew what it was about and saw a clip on Oprah when Mariah was a guest recently. And I knew that Lee was the director. He directed Halle Berry in her Oscar-winning (and steamy sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton) performance in Monster’s Ball. I could only imagine what lengths he would go to to illustrate Precious’ story. But I was shockingly and pleasantly surprised by what I saw on the big screen. I didn’t expect humor to be laced throughout the film. What a relief it was. But in the end, you can’t tie a bow on this disheartening package with humor. It is what it is. An illiterate, no self-esteem having teenage girl pregnant by her father for the second time who lives with a mother who beats the hell out of her and curses her like she is her worst enemy. Their dismal living conditions in Harlem. The smell of no hope that permeates throughout.
When the film ended, a lady in front of me turned around to say how different the film we saw was from the one she saw four or five months ago. That one, she said, was so raw and vivid that it left everyone speechless at the end. She walked out and went right to McDonald’s to get her two Happy Meals to cheer her up. She needed it, she said, after seeing a film that showed more of the rapes than what we saw. I won’t write what takes place but it’s safe to say I was enthralled. It’s a good sign (and a rarity) that I never reached for my BlackBerry to check the time during the screening and that I didn’t want it to end when it did. But you’ll have to check it out for yourself when it opens on Nov. 6.
I will say Mo’Nique should receive an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of the abusive mother. If you think she looks scary in this photo, just wait until you see her on the big screen. I hope that what I’ve read about Mo’Nique demanding money to promote the film is not true. Usually when an actor signs a contract to make a movie, they also agree to promote the film.
It wasn’t until after the film was in the works that heavyweights Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry signed on as executive producers. Their power will undoubtedly help marketing efforts by Lionsgate.