Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Spoiler Alert: You might not want to read this if you plan to see the movie. Details will, no doubt, be revealed.

Mariah Carey plays me at 25.

That's only one of the wonderful surprises in Precious
. The Little Cuter took herself on a date to see it earlier this month, and she was on the phone to me that night encouraging me to take myself, too. ("Do not bring Dad.... it is so not his kind of movie.") So, today, feeling bereft, I took her advice. TBG didn't want to sit in the dark, anyway, so there wasn't even any guilt at leaving him to fend for himself on this first Cuter-less day. I went in smiling.

That lasted about 3 minutes. Awful doesn't come close to the life lived in that 3 room duplex, and Alfred Hitchcock could take lessons about what happens at the top of these stairs. Every time I though it couldn't get worse, it did. It wasn't over-the-top horrible, it was believable and wretched and it felt true.

That was how it got under my skin. Precious wears pajamas that barely button closed, the little girl in her building spray paints the garbage cans for entertainment, the social workers' offices have no doors or partitions so rape and incest are discussed without privacy ..... this is real life in all its terrible glory. It's not been gussied up for the film; the filth is the filth.

There is bravery in Mo'Nique's decision to take the role of the mother. There is not a redeeming feature in it - not the clothes, not the makeup or hairstyle, not the character herself. I can't imagine how she was able to leave it in her trailer and pick up her actual self at the end of the day. The moments before her rage explodes, those quiet, might-be-peaceful-except-you-can-feel-the-anger-building moments, are among the most powerful in the film. The camera wanders off, resting on the over-turned dishes or the empty TV stand, and there is no sense of calm, no ease, no assurance that the moment has passed and Precious will, this time, escape her mother's wrath. There's just an empty silence - a void in which no warmth or love or hope or help resides. Truly, the calm before the storm... which isn't really that calm at all..... it's more that the world is making space for the turmoil to follow.

I didn't recognize Mariah Carey, and had to wait for the Little Cuter to clue me in. Miss Weiss..... "What color are you?"..... was absolutely, positively, without a doubt, spot on, precisely how I looked and how I felt and how I practiced social work when I was 25. The client's drawing over the desk. The stacks of folders in a stair-casing rack. The soda machine within sight of my desk. Asking all "the right" questions in just "the right" tone of voice and having absolutely no clue what to do with the answers. Keeping my distance yet holding out my hand. No wonder Precious was confused - "Do you like me?"; Miss Weiss knew just how powerless she was and how much she wanted to fix it all and the impossibility of the situation of each and every player on the field. Yet she came to work every day, dressed as if it mattered what she wore.

Lenny Kravitz is the world's sexiest nurse (oh, how I wanted him to take Precious away with him) and Precious's presentation of him to the school's receptionist is only one of the laugh-out-loud moments I had this afternoon. A serious film on a serious topic that is genuinely funny and up-beat. This was a special movie. Sure there were continuity issues - what about the notebook she left in the chicken place? - and unbelievability issues -who has ever had a teacher as gorgeous as Paula Patton... or one as well dressed, for that matter? - but ultimately they didn't matter. No one was preaching or haranguing or insulting my intelligence. This is a movie about a resilient child, and to my mind that's a feel good film.

The Little Cuter said that she laughed and she cried and she was glad she went alone. I agree with her; I'm glad my reactions were my own. I'm feeling emptied, hollowed out, on the verge of tears ..... but there's a great big smile on my face and my heart is warm.
If you've read this far and haven't seen the movie, I really didn't ruin that much of it. Go. See it. Then come back and tell me if you liked it. I'll be waiting for your comments...........


  1. I so want to see this movie. You've convinced me even more. Thanks.

  2. I've been afraid to see this movie, afraid of unrelieved horror. At this age, I have to watch what I put in my mouth and in my head. Based on your post, though, I might go see it. I'm less equivocal about returning right here, though. Thanks for being the guinea pig on Precious and thanks for writing so well about it.

  3. I was scared, too, Nance, but, like Mary I so wanted to see it. It's not going to leave you feeling slimy .... you'll have a warm buzz through your tears.

    Let us know .... and thanks to you both for the kind words.


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