Milwaukee Film Festival organizers closed an 11-day whirlwind festival with an intense film that looked at the effects of abuse. Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based on the Novel “PUSH” by Sapphire, which took top honors at Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival, offered a fitting end, noted MFF Executive Director Jonathan Jackson.
“It was my single, favorite film of the year,” Jackson said before the sold-out showing at Marcus North Shore Cinema on Sunday. “It blows you away. We thought it would be a really special closing, something that would allow for all of Milwaukee to come together.”
The absorbing movie starts with Clareece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe), an overweight, illiterate black girl, walking down the halls of her junior high school in Harlem. It becomes uncomfortably clear that her life revolves around all of the things that she doesn’t have but wishes for: a boyfriend, a normal life and hope.
Her large frame, mostly stuffed in clothes that don’t fit, moves uncomfortably as she drifts from one scene to the next. Her voice is clear but rarely heard. And, when it is, it seems to startle her the most.
In a quirky only-at-the-movies twist, Precious leaves the numbing pain of her dysfunctional life in fantasy sequences where her photos talk back to her and where she gets dolled-up and pushed to center stage of large concert halls. Such scenes allow her to diffuse and dream and for viewers to see just how beautiful she can be.
It’s not surprising that TV mogul Oprah Winfrey and movie magnet Tyler Perry, the film’s executive producers, decided to take on this film that deals so pointedly with incest. In fact, at least one abusive scene is reminiscent of the 1985 film Color Purple, in which Winfrey starred in.
What is surprising is just how well handled the subject is parlayed into a story that also deals with hope and redemption. By the end of the film, equipped with the knowledge that her days may be numbered, Precious is resolute about pulling out of the muck and mire that once defined her path.
While this is not a feel-good movie, you definitely leave with the impression that Precious is a survivor.
A number of stars make memorable appearances, including Mariah Carey as a no-nonsense social worker; Sherri Shepherd (of The View) as a chatty school assistant; Lenny Kravitz, as a nurse aide; and Robin Thicke’s actress wife Paula Patton as Precious’ concerned teacher. But their appearances do little to steal the thunder away from the film’s main star, Sidibe, or its convincing antagonist, Mo’Nique, who recently revealed a past of sexual abuse of her own.
Don’t expect the buzz around Precious to die down too soon as the film is scheduled for a major release in November and is sure to rise to the top of the Oscars’ list.