The Movies We Watch Because I can’t Eat–Precious

I am 7 weeks pregnant. The smell, the thought and the texture of food repulses me to my core.  I haven’t been cooking and poor Ryan has been fending for himself in a desolate kitchen with only fish sticks and maccaroni and cheese to fill his belly. What I have been doing is laying on the couch ever so quietly groaning. My position on the couch is perfect to watch movies and that’s just what we’ve been doing. Since I don’t have any cooking quips to offer and I know the world on the web is clamoring for my thoughts on just about anything, I thought I’d offer Ryan and my thoughts on these movies we have just watched for the first time: Precious, Up in the Air and Rebecca. In installments.

Precious:

This movie was just nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Lead Role by an Actress and Best Supporting Role by an Actress  for the 2010 Academy Awards. Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’nique were nominated for their roles and Mo’nique took home the Oscar for Best Female Supporting Role. Precious was produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. It did not run in theaters near us, so we only heard of  it when the Oscar nominations were released. After all they hype we figured we should watch it.

Precious is based on the novel Push by Sapphire, so it is not the exact story of any actual person. Ryan and I wondered if it is meant to be the struggle of any given African-American girl in 1987 Harlem or maybe if Precious was an example of all the struggles of the girls in her time.  Not to give away too much, Precious (title character) is a large, black girl of 15 who lives with her angry and bitter mother on welfare in Harlem. We find out later that both of her two children were fathered by her own father, her mother’s long-time boyfriend. Precious is behind in school and is eventually expelled when the principal learns of her second pregnancy.

We did not find it was unimportant that the teacher and principal at Precious’s first school were white. Obviously her teacher and principal cared about Precious and the children in the community school. So much so they were willing to put up with their behavior to try to give them an education. But there came a point where the public school system with it’s rules and regulations could no longer help Precious. The white principal subjected herself to Harlem streets at night and a forced verbal beating to give Precious one more chance–an alternative school. We thought the “white people” were portrayed fairly and from what we know, accurately, but there comes a point where a black teacher can relate to a black child in ways a white teacher cannot.

Spoiler alert: I’m going to discuss things you learn toward the end of the movie and discuss the end it’s self. If you have the intention of watching Precious, you may want to avert your eyes until you’ve watched it.

It is at this alternative school that Precious meets Miss Rain. Miss Rain is a lively, African-American teacher who rules her classroom with a firm but caring hand. When Precious leaves her mother’s house, Miss Rain takes her in until they can find her another place to live. It is here that we learn Miss Rain is a lesbian and lives with her (presumably ) long-time girlfriend. We see a very loving and supportive relationship between these two women and Precious even remarks she wishes her mother could see her now, finding love and support in a gay home, the same type of home her mother hates.  The knowledge that Miss Rain is a lesbian comes as a bit of a shock and it makes for an interesting point in the movie.  What struck me most was the irony of it, and maybe this was intentional. Precious’s mother apparently always rails against homosexuals and thinks they are good for nothing. When we learn Precious’s father had AIDS I wondered if maybe the reason Precious’s mother is so anti-gay is because her boyfriend had a homosexual relationship and contracted HIV. The irony then to me is, Precious finds comfort, support and ultimately acceptance in the gay community and at the same time is inevitably going to die from a disease her father contracted from the same community.

Now before anyone bites my head off, that was just my thoughts on the matter. Today, of course, there are many, innocent ways of contracting HIV, but in 1987, there weren’t. I’m not even sure if in 1987 it was called AIDS yet, but that is neither here nor there. Of course Precious’s father may have contracted HIV from a blood transfusion or a used heroin needle, but seeing how sexually deviant he was, the viewer can more easily be convinced it was from a homosexual affair. Precious’s mother also heavily protested having any drugs in her house, so the heroin angle may work too.

Please don’t read the former paragraph as an attack on Miss Rain either. If it were not for her tender heart and fiery passion, it is conceivable that Precious would have not lived another year. Miss Rain is certainly a hero in this story and her sexual preference should not detract from that.

It is a long story and Precious overcomes many obstacles and truly blossoms before the audience’s eye. As with any true-to-life story, there isn’t always a neat conclusion. In the final scene, we see Precious carrying her two children away from the Social Worker’s office. This scene in and of its self is…unresolved. On the one hand, the audience is on a high as Precious walks away from her mother and social welfare and steps out on her own with her children to live her live with her head held high. But even as she walks off with a smile, the audience can’t get that nagging diagnosis out of their heads. She is walking around with AIDS in 1987 Harlem, she is like walking time bomb. So the end leaves you conflicted, you are elated to see Precious come into her own, but also down trodden knowing this is just one story of one girl, that she is in a community full of people with stories like her’s and a disease like hers who may not have gotten the help she did.

The obvious correlation of this film is to The Color Purple, although The Color Purple may leave its audience with more hope than Precious. But maybe the modern low-class american community doesn’t have the same hope as they once did. Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe certainly proved themselves first-rate actresses in this film. Frankly, Mo’nique will scare the shit out of you, and she certainly earned her Oscar nomination. I am not sure I would say this film is worth seeing, but it certainly leaves an impression. Like Revolutionary Road, you’re happy you watched it, but you don’t think you can stand to watch it again.

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