Posts Tagged ‘adaptations’

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Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

August 5, 2010

I’d been avoiding Precious for a while before I finally got around to watching it. Something was telling me it was going to be slow… and boring… and I just couldn’t muster up the stomach to watch it. Even the title of the movie was holding me back. The fact that someone as obnoxious and seemingly untalented as Mo’Nique won an Oscar was extremely intriguing, however, and I just couldn’t ignore the accolades thrust upon this film any longer. I’m glad to say it was my most pleasant surprise of any 2009 film.

I was right about one thing… Precious is not an easy film. The story is dark and some of the characters are hard to watch, particularly Mo’Nique as Precious’ abusive, alcoholic mother Mary. Precious’ circumstances are grim; she’s pregnant with a second child from her own father, a fact that creates even more tension in her relationship with her mother. Rather than realizing the traumatic experience of her child, Mary blames Precious for tempting her husband and takes out her own feelings of inadequacy on her daughter, often physically. Meanwhile, Precious is struggling to fit in at school and is recommended to try alternative schooling, where she meets her new teacher Ms. Rain. Once here, Precious begins a quest to break free of her violent and demoralizing upbringing.

I never read the book this film was adapted from, so I have no idea how faithful the script is to the source material. Either way, the story here is one worth watching. Yeah, it’s not an easy watch, but most films dealing with tough themes aren’t. Sapphire has created a character that is easy to root for because at her core, she seems like a good person and is clearly a victim of circumstances. You will definitely be rooting for her.

The best thing about Precious is the acting. I would have bet a lot of money against Mo’Nique if someone ever suggested she would win an Oscar, but she KILLS her role in this movie. She’s brutal and heart-wrenching as Precious’ troubled mom. It’s one of those performances, like Heath Ledger in last year’s The Dark Knight or Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, that make you go “where did that come from?” Gabourey Sidibe plays the title character and watching the movie you think she’s doing a decent job, but only because you have no idea who this actress really is. I was watching Sidibe in her audition and in various other extras on the DVD and it’s pretty clear that she has some serious acting chops. Her real personality sounds more like a white valley girl than a troubled, black woman so her transformation makes the performance all the more spectacular. As if Mo’Nique wasn’t surprising enough, I found myself enthralled by the woman playing Mrs. Weiss, Precious’ welfare counselor, and was somewhat shocked and appalled to discover that it was Mariah Carey. I really thought she did a terrific job and even though she looked like a Plain Jane in this movie, her beauty still shown through, as I found myself attracted to her and wondering who the actress was. I was wondering after the movie what I would have thought of her performance if I had known who she was from the jump. I feel like I would have been inclined to hate on her… but alas, I will never know.

Precious is a tough movie, but it’s one worth sitting through. It’s not my favorite movie of 2009 and probably not the best, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the most powerful. As it stands, Precious would probably find a spot in my top five films of 2009. Highly recommended, if only for Mo’Nique’s brilliant performance.

Grade: A-
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Not much… a great, one time film, but nothing I’d add to my DVD collection.
Oscar Watch: Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Director, with wins for Mo’Nique in Best Supporting Actress and Geoffrey Fletcher for Best Adapted Screenplay. Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress.
Nudity: A couple of rape scenes that are obviously more stomach-turning than erection-inducing.

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Choke Lives Up To It’s Name

March 15, 2009

What’s wrong with this picture? A film based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club (arguably one of the 20 best films released in the past ten years), can’t even gross $3 million domestically? You’d think that just attaching “from the author of Fight Club” on the poster would be enough to put the uneducated asses in the seats. I use the word “uneducated” because I think anyone that is familiar with Palahniuk’s work is going to fall into one of two categories: biased fanatic or biased hater. I never read Fight Club, but I’ve read three of Palahniuk’s other novels (Choke included), and they’ve all left a sour taste in my mouth. His writing style has an air of pretension that’s hard to overlook, the stories are ridiculously absurd, and his characters are unlikeable and morally retarded. I realize that’s often what he’s going for, and sometimes that formula can be engaging, but Palahniuk’s stories often come across heartless, and sometimes we just need somebody to root for. Choke was the first of his books I read and it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’ve stumbled across someone with a unique and clever voice, but his novels are kind of like Fight Club: you’re getting punched in the face repeatedly, yet sometimes you act like you enjoy it.

With that said, this is a review of the film, not the author’s collection of works… but I think it’s important to understand how I feel about the source material, since I clearly didn’t like the story and I was expecting disaster as soon as I saw the trailer. The movie version is a pretty faithful adaptation of the book and some of the scenes and characters are so sexually indecent that I’m sure this had to be pushing an NC-17 rating and it’s hard R-rating had to factor in keeping it from playing in a lot of theaters. The story is about Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex addict who chokes on food in restaurants during his spare time in the hopes that his rescuer will feel responsible for his life and send him loads of money over time. Victor also regularly visits his mother (Anjelica Huston) in the hospital and we get flashbacks in his upbringing that help explain why Victor became the adult he is today. Yawn.

At least the acting in the film is decent, as Rockwell and Huston are both capable thespians. They do what they can with their characters, but neither invoke sympathy in the viewer. It’s hard to fault the actors, however, when the characters are clearly written to be completely amoral. I’m already tired of bashing this movie, so I’ll end by saying that I kind of hated it even though it lived up to my expectations. I’m sure anyone that can admit they are a fan of the novel will probably like the film as well… but don’t go into this thing blind, expecting Fight Club caliber.

Score: 3 out of 10 (Painful)