Wednesday, 10 February 2010
At the weekend, we watched the film Precious. I've been thinking about this film for days now, and wanted to find some way to talk about why I thought it was one of the most amazing films I've seen in a long time.
Claireese is a 16 year old, very obese, black girl living in Harlem. She lives with her mum who is possibly the most horrible woman portrayed in film. She beats her, treats her like a slave, has a mouth like a sewer and is one scary mother. Claireese is pregnant with her second child, and I won't give the details in case you want to watch it, but let's just say they were not the happiest of conceptions. She gets A- in English in school, even though she can't read, and gets sent to an alternative education programme.
There are plenty of shocks in store, one of these for example is that her first child is called Mongo, which Claireese explains to the welfare lady is short for mongoloid, because she has down syndrome. One of many uncomfortable moments in the film, but in my mind brilliant because there is no flannelling over such details. In my work, I have heard many people say the most uncomfortable things, and I like the way this film portrays this. It's not nice to hear, but there is a lot of ignorance out there, and real gutter ways of talking and seeing the world.
I like the way that, when things get tough, she disappears into fantasies of being in a music video, or a superstar, or with some gorgeous guy. She looks in a mirror and sees a reflection of herself as a pretty, thin, white girl. She imagines photos in an album talking to her.
The casting is interesting. I thought Mariah Carey played a very good social worker actually. There are some interesting moments when Claireese tells her about the realities of her life. The last such scene is extremely powerful, and shows up some of the naivety of the social worker (we hear things we don't expect to hear all the time, sometimes things we wish we hadn't heard), and this scene was strong. It is very clear that much of the scene was improvised, and there is some of Mariah in the social worker's reaction, I thought (in a good way) because how could a person acting such a part fail to react to what Claireese's mother says in this scene. It's honesty is brutal but authentic. There are no holds barred, it is not what anyone might expect, but from my own work experience, this is authentic. Sorry, but this is more real than fiction. The details might be made up, but it's not make believe, this shit happens, and not just to 'other' people.
The fight scenes are scary, when the baby is dropped and then a TV is dropped down the stairwell. Phew. I couldn't help but let out a little scream.
And there is hope, not other people coming in and rescuing the victim like a lot of films about abuse. This is sheer resilience. There is no heroism or glorification. It pisses me off so much when a film portrays abuse like this, or goes for the thriller-type revenge angle, or doesn't explore how complex it is, the dilemmas, or takes the line of 'oh well we saved this poor child, so now everything will be fine' bullshit.
People just do the best they can to help Claireese, on a basic humane level. But it's Claireese that does the surviving, beyond all expectation, because that's what people do. They get on with things, even after the most horrible of crap.
I've seen this a lot. People who drag themselves through the most awful things (most people pottering along in their nice lives wouldn't have a clue), and they do well for themselves, they still have the capacity for love, they achieve.
Ha, so as you can see, this film made me very thoughtful about many things. It was hard, challenging, not perfect, but it raised so many issues, confronted them, confronted us, I think.
I haven't read the book, but would be really interested to know what you thought of book or film or both. I want to hear other views really, to help me process my own thoughts and feelings. Did people love it/hate it? Think it was badly done/well done? The casting? What did you think???
And for those of you who haven't seen it, here's the trailer