Although I skipped this weekend's Muppet screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center (they weren't showing anything I couldn't watch on DVD), I did still make it out to the cinema today, this time to catch the much-buzzed-about potential Oscar contender, Precious. Let me just say this right off the bat: I liked this movie. I didn't love it, I didn't think it was the greatest movie I've ever seen, I don't think every actress in it deserves an Oscar nomination, but I did like it and I did find it uplifting despite the very disturbing situations it explores.
Much has been made of Mariah Carey's portrayal of Precious' social worker, and the de-beautifying that she undertook for the role. While the performance was certainly an improvement over some of Mariah's other roles (I'm looking at you Glitter), I still didn't sense much genuine emotion in her acting. Even when stripped of the artifice of her glamorous persona, I'm not sure that she can act. She should stick to her day job.
The star of the film, Gabourney Sidibe, fared much better in her first on-screen role. She managed to capture the depth of Precious' pain at the hands of her incestuous father and abusive mother, and her mix of escapism, despair, and hope as she confronts monumental challenge after monumental challenge. Compared with other actresses her age, her feat was impressive. However, I thought her performance was overshadowed by the actress who I consider to have the best chance of winning an Oscar for her work in this film: Mo'Nique.
With a resume that includes such work as Phat Girls, Mo'Nique's Fat Chance, and Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School, there wasn't much to inspire my confidence that Mo'Nique possessed the dramatic chops to conquer so challenging a role as that of Precious' violent, self-consumed mother, Mary. As Mary, Mo'Nique was genuinely terrifying and repugnant, and the strength of her portrayal affected me on a visceral level. For an actress to step so far outside of her traditional type-casting with such ferocity is far more Oscar-worthy in my opinion than the willingness to be filmed without makeup, as Mariah Carey did. It may not be pleasant to watch on its own, but I think Mo'Nique's performance is reason enough to head to the theater and see Precious.
If you need further convincing, take heart in the fact that the film ends on what I considered to be a positive note, or at least a hopeful one. Despite the horrifying events that Precious faces, she does not let them define or conquer her. Plus, there is a great deal of comic relief interspersed throughout the film to lighten the mood. I was concerned that seeing Precious would leave me depressed for the entire day, but it was ultimately much less sad than I had originally anticipated. So, take heart, and get yourself to the movie theater before Oscar season roles around!