This is Jeff Bayer, and I don't update this site very often. If you'd like to listen to my current movie podcast you can find it at MovieBS.com.

He Said - He Said ... Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is the story of an overweight 16-year-old who is physically and emotionally abused. I know, it sounds like an after school special, not a potential Oscar-winning film. Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer) directs his second film which stars Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton and Mariah Carey. As always, it's better to read reviews if you are planning on seeing this film. With all of the "said" articles, nothing is off limits. Plot spoilers, big twists and the ending are all fair game for us to talk about. Enough jibber jabber, onto the film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire with he (Jeff Bayer) and he (Nick Allen). Bayer's TSR - 8/10 Allen's TSR - 5/10

Bayer Said

I knew you were desperate for someone else to see this film. I also knew you gave it a 5/10. Plus, I knew it was about a big girl, and there was the potential for tears. That's all I knew going it. So, you found this film average. I find that strange. While Precious falls into the category of ... "Wow, who am I going to possibly tell that they should see this film?" It's not because it's average, it's because it is so powerful. There are surprising performances (Mo’Nique and Mariah Carey), quality commentary about our society, insanely uncomfortable rape and abuse scenes, and everything feels real. It doesn't feel Hollywoodized. No, that's not a real word. I know you sneaked in a second viewing of this film. Did you come to your senses? Or are we going to duke it out?

Allen Said

In honor of the excess fantasy sequences that make the experience of Precious increasingly manipulative, here is my own imaginary scenario.

I am a struggling Hollywood screenwriter, and you're a respectable Hollywood producer with a few notable titles in your resume. I walk into your office with a script in hand, and I ask you to read it. Because you're too busy counting your dollars, you prefer that I just describe the events. I take a deep breath, and I begin.

"So, there's this girl. She's 16 years old in late 80's Harlem. She's lower class and lives alone with her mother." "Okay," you say. "She's 300 pounds overweight, and get this - is pregnant with her SECOND child!" "Excuse me?" You're curious. "That's not it though. First of all, this is all laid out in one big monologue by her school's principal, who gets all of the character details out in one fell swoop, which will also make for a great hook in a trailer. Anywho, in the scene right after that, we find out that this girl, who is named Precious because that's so sweet and ironic to her hell-like situation, has an abusive mother. And we totally find this out when this girl gets hit by a random flying frying pan. And it's all done in slow motion so we can really drag this stuff out and milk the heavy drama of the situation." "Uh ... okay. Slow motion? Really?" "But that's just the beginning. Ok, so soon after we find out that she lives with a mother who has no loving bone in her body, and threatens to beat up Precious again after the principal drops later that night, we discover another great character trait that is sure to get Oprah's followers on board, if they aren't already." "Oh yeah? What's that?" "Precious is sexually abused by her mother AND her father, and the babies are both his!" "What the ?" "And here's the great punch at the end, when your audience has already been guilted into submission and disliking the movie feels basically impossible - she's gonna get HIV/AIDS at the end of the movie!" "Get out." "What did I say wrong?" "No one is going to believe this. This is starting to remind me of Tyler Perry stuff, but more manipulative and greedy with emotions." "But ... but her first child is going to have down syndrome!"

As I am being kicked out by security, I ask, "Wait. Speaking of Perry, do you think he will want to exec. produce this?"

Sigh. The above did not happen, the opposite did. Precious did start as a small Sundance film, but it has now hit a winning streak of larger and larger audiences across the nation that must be too badgered by the movie's many manipulative elements to realize this is not the special moment it is being made out to be. Certainly not worthy of its Oscar buzz.

You'll have to tell me what "commentary about our society" is made about Precious, other than the fact it states that a movie with aforementioned lead character elements can be perceived as so honest or even lifelike. As for the scenes of abuse, of course they're uncomfortable. It's abuse, it's awful, it's tragic, yet at the same time the movie has no problem tacking on such scenes when it needs another sucker punch to deliver on its viewers. Let's talk about these before we discuss Mo'Nique's commendable but increasing overrated performance.

Bayer said

So you are actually upset that "Hollywood" has tried to manipulate your emotions? That's what that one act play that you wrote is all about?

Couldn't I do that with just about anything?

"So, there's these guys who go to Vegas and all of them black out," you say. "Wait, ALL of them?" "And they wake up with a tiger and a chicken in their Vegas suite, plus they've lost their friend ... who's about to get married!" "That doesn't sound very realistic. I am upset you are trying to mine laughs in such a serious situation as blacking out."

And.... scene.

Are you saying "Push" was written and Precious was made for the complete purpose of tugging at your heart strings, and since it does, you're now upset because you've been used?

Or are you just upset that moviegoers, so far, see this as a very powerful story? And why does that bother you? Isn't it much more aggravating that 2012 raked in $65 million this weekend?

You've actually shrugged your shoulders at the abuse saying simply, "of course it's awful." The rape was very difficult to watch, and part of what I was saying with "commentary on our society."

Where does Precious go when she is physically and emotionally abused? Into her head with dreams of singing, dancing, the red carpet. This is an absolute problem with minorities. She can't read, yet she thinks stardom is in her future. Bill Cosby talks about this whenever given the chance. Whether it's because the family unit doesn't help, schools push them through, or in this movie's extreme case (the point of most films is to take an extreme case) of abuse, many children believe in a future that can't possibly exist.

You say it's not worthy of Oscar buzz, and it's manipulative ... that's it. You try to beat home the point of manipulation, but you will lose that battle every time because again ... movies are manipulative. So?

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but clearly this movie didn't make you feel ... sorry, sad, hopeful, take your pick. That's the issue, right? That sticks you in the minority and the first one to jump on the bandwagon of disliking something that is being praised. There is always backlash. Great job on leading the way.

Allen Said

You said earlier that you feel the movie isn't Hollywoodized. However, considering the things I have mentioned before, I feel that it is "Hollywoodized." Take two monologues by Mo'Nique, one of them from the beginning, and one of them happening at the end at the social security office. Both of them could have been cut shorter, as their points were made thoroughly close to the beginning of each tirade. However, as these sequences carry on, Mo'Nique yells and cusses or cries her eyes out with a horrific story about who loves the abuser, and suddenly it feels like a strictly Oscar-reel moment. When she does get a nomination for Best Supporting Actress (sigh), I guarantee you one of these scenes will be chosen to show her "brave" performance, and Lee Daniels has given the editors of that show plenty of segments to choose from. These scenes start off sincere and then turn into a tirade on display. They don't have to be that excessive. One of them is even concluded with a "dramatic" use of slow motion, which is probably the most "Hollywoodized" example.

The usage of slow motion with certain actions, such as the frying pan coming across the room, or Mo'Nique's character coming rushing up the stairs at Precious, is unnecessary and most of all insincere. Such violence should exist purely if it wants to be taken as a piece of the cruel reality that these characters are living in. Of course the entire movie is not in slow motion, but such a choice by Daniels indicates more melodrama than heart. Or in your term, "Hollywoodized."

Yes, movies are manipulative. Somehow, we learn to love three losers who lose their best friend the day before his wedding, and somehow we learn to love Bonnie and Clyde even though they're the bad guy/girl. But Precious is the bad kind of manipulative (I am tired of saying the word myself) in that it feels like it is preying on our guilt concerning the issues about young minorities that you have previously stated, moreso than opening our eyes to the topic. It presents us with The Unluckiest Woman In North America and beats us down with her problems. She has those "dreams" of fame, but they aren't sincerely used. In the scene where she is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Daniels takes Precious away from her reality and immediately back into her fantasy world. As likely that it would be that Precious' imagination would cut to a dream, the effect on the audience is just having our nose rubbed harder in the idea that such things are even more impossible for her now, as her life has become even more tender, and shorter.

Not to nitpick what you've said, but it doesn't entirely seem like she "thinks stardom is in her future." She's not working towards any musical dream or education in any art form in the movie, so it's more her wanting the concept of the "great life" that celebrity would bring. Basically, she just wants to be famous. At the same time, don't many people, of all backgrounds, classes, and ethnicities?

I liked Paula Patton's character as the teacher, but her part struck me as written with the same mediocre compassion of other selfless teachers we have seen in other movies (Hilary Swank's character in Freedom Writers comes to mind). It is a nice performance from Patton, but her character's inclusion in the story nudges towards the idea that when the movie does aim to be honest, or perhaps even "real," it can only reach a level of ordinary. Her moments with Precious are somewhat endearing, but are not more special than moments in other mediocre teacher underdog movies.

Bayer said

Dude. I think you'll fallen prey to the idea that this film was created for those who suffer from white guilt. I don't think that's the case. You do. You're going to have to move on from that idea.

Mo'Nique nailed her scenes. I didn't think they were too long. When she'd called Precious stupid, that was easy, and we've seen that before, but the envelope was pushed. There was a level of violence that we don't normally see in an environment that films rarely bother with. Yes, she'll probably be nominated. And I think it's completely fair. She's one of my favorite, most memorable Best Supporting Actress performances of the year. Can you easily name five others? Can you do it without looking up past movies? If so, I would love to know exactly how long it took you.

You wanted Mary's (Mo'Nique) explanation to the social worker shorter? You were bored? You lost interest? The fact that you wanted to shout, "We get it! Move on." means you actually didn't get it. I was amazed with where her thoughts went and felt the time given to that scene was completely warranted.

Side note ... Mary is the queen of welfare abuse. I wonder if any right winger will try to use that as an accurate portrayal of the welfare system as a whole.

Precious is not "Hollywoodized" compared to The Blind Side (surprisingly good). That's what I mean. It doesn't seem like it's main purpose is to make money. It is more art than money maker. You have to admit the movie is a tough sell. I really liked it, but am very cautious as to who I recommend see the film.

And yes, Precious thinks stardom is in her future. But we know better. We know she has no shot. She thinks fame fixes all of her problems. And no, I don't think most of us have escapism thoughts of fame.

I agree with Patton's performance for the most part. We don't even see her teach besides having kids read from a journal.

Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz. Did you already know both of them were in the movie before you saw it? Carey sounded like she was speaking through some sort of weird voice box. She seems to be getting credit for looking worse than usual, but otherwise, I don't see anything magical about her performance. Kravitz ... I'll be honest, I didn't know it was him until after I saw the film. He brought a great warmth to the film from what really becomes the only male performance in the film.

It's funny. I was actually expecting to feel like this movie manipulated emotions, but it felt real for the two reasons of ... 1) Gabourey Sidibe is not someone we normally see on the big screen 2) Mo'Nique is really good.

You've developed the chip I was worried I would have on my shoulder. It's a well-reviewed film. You're on the outside looking in. Seeing it a second time didn't change your opinion at all? Remember how you didn't love Star Trek? Yeah, you remember. Well, you started this "he said" by saying "Mo'Nique's commendable but increasing overrated performance" and now you're saying she's overdoing it for the camera as Oscar bait. If it's commendable, doesn't that mean good. And anything beyond that, you're just getting upset with society/other critics/white guilt and not the actual performance?

Scoring a movie on a scale of 1-10 is very specific. It's much easier to say, "good, bad, average."

Precious = good.

If you think it's average, what other films come to mind about young minorities and their struggles that think are better? Maybe that answer will shake some sense into you.

Allen Said

A lot has been said here in this rather epic version of "He Said," and it's time for me to wrap things up.

For one, your Best Supporting Actress question does have me stumped. Maybe there's a shortage of notable Best Supporting Actress like roles, or maybe I actually would need IMDB.com to spot them. It's possible that when the heavily female-driven Nine comes out next month, that could do the trick in filling up some slots for the category. But whether one agrees or not, the buzz is indicating she'll be a shoo-in for a nod.

Regarding your request for better movies about struggling young minorities? I'll just name a few, though I'm guilty of not reaching far out of Spike Lee's filmography for now: Clockers, Do The Right Thing, and most certainly Get on the Bus. Non-Spike would definitely have to include Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society. Some of these focus on the topic much differently than Precious, and I regret to say that they're all films that focus on lead males. For this reason, Precious may be different. But for the reasons that I still believe in, despite the fact that they are putting me in a critical minority, I do not think Precious is special.

It's funny you brought out the Star Trek card, because I do remember that debacle (not the movie, but the backlash I received for not really liking it). Now that Star Trek has come out on DVD, I am very curious to see if my opinions sustain themselves on a second watch. Maybe months from now, when Precious is done doing whatever it's gonna do to American cinema, and comes out on DVD, a third watch will have me seeing the movie differently, leaving me with a different, more positive attitude about the film. Maybe.

Bayer Said

Fine, I'll start from the beginning since you clearly don't understand ... oh wait. You said, "maybe." I win. Well, there's no need to go on here. I got the "maybe" victory I was seeking. And now it's clear you just don't like women ... kidding. I'll throw you this bone, I will be watching more closely upon my second viewing. As for awards season ... I gave up truly caring about what wins a while ago, after all, it doesn't appear Inglorious Basterds is going to sweep right now.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire