Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Video review: "Precious"

Lately it seems major films are being pushed onto video in a slipshod manner. Extras are skimpy and unenlightening, as if the studio couldn't be bothered to take the time or spend the money.

(Yeah, I'm talking to you, "Where the Wild Things Are.")

So it's refreshing to see Best Picture Oscar nominee "Precious" given a top-notch release. It's got a solid commentary track and host of probing featurettes totaling nearly an hour. About the only knock is the lack of a digital copy.

Extras are identical for DVD and Blu-ray versions. In the commentary, director Lee Daniels talks openly about his own troubled youth and how it inspired him during the shooting.

Author Sapphire speaks about her experiences as an inner-city teacher, and how she was reluctant to let Hollywood film her book. She relented after seeing Daniels' "Monsters Ball."

The casting of novice Gabourey Sidibe is covered in detail, including footage from her audition. Sidibe is nothing like her character -- she's smart, outgoing and "talks like a white girl," Daniels says.

Daniels talks about de-glamorizing his cast, making nearly everyone work without makeup -- he even reveals he caught Mariah Carey trying to sneak in some blush between takes.

Oprah and Tyler Perry talk about their roles in "presenting" the film. Artistically, they had nothing to do with it. But after seeing it, they felt compelled to lend their names to get the Sundance favorite a major release.

Set in Harlem 1987, it's the first-person story of Claireece "Precious" Jones, an obese, illiterate 16-year-old who's pregnant with her second child. She's the victim of her mother, a serial abuser, played with terrifying rage by Mo'Nique, and was raped repeatedly by her father.

She's like a thousand others girls that people pass on the streets every day without seeing. Her entire life has taught her to feel worthless, like "ugly black grease."

But Precious is given a second chance when she's sent to an alternative school, where she finds a teacher and fellow female students who help her, for the first time in her life, to feel empowered. The vibrant fantasies that ping around her head start to translate into the journals she keeps for class.

"Precious" is a hard movie to watch. The brutality it depicts, of both a physical and psychological nature, are vile. The only thing worse would be failing to see it.

Movie: 3.5 stars
Extras: 3.5 stars

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