I don't know what to make of Precious. It shouldn't have worked for me — I expected it not to work for me — and yet, somehow, it did. Despite Precious's situation being so bleak and so intense that it should have either rung false or shut me down, it got me to go along with it. Despite Mary having exactly one very loud, marrow-frequency note for 90 percent of the film, Mo'Nique kills it. Despite a voice-over that often brings to mind soggy, no-caps confessional poetry, Lee Daniels creates an atmosphere that carries it.
Gabourey Sidibe is outstanding. She has a unique charisma — a gravity, outside of her size or the way she's styled from scene to scene; you can feel her thinking, mulling, but you don't necessarily know the thoughts, or even the topic. At one point, the VO is delivered in a rueful half-chuckle, and you seldom hear that.
What can it win? It will not win Best Picture or Best Director; the latter is kind of a shame, because Daniels's balancing act with the material is very impressive. I don't think it takes Adapted Screenplay, either, but that category is weird this year: it's up against a dog's-breakfast slate of An Education, District 9, In The Loop, and Up In The Air, so it's not impossible.
But Mo'Nique: dang. Unabashed, feral misery, and then hand over hand she pulls it back around so that you pity Mary a little. For sheer, hardcore commitment, she's got it in the bag.
Whether you'd like the movie itself, I really can't say. It's both over-praised and over-backlashed; in the middle, though, there is a story that tries too hard, tries to do too much, stumbles over its own timelines, and occasionally makes magic next to its mistakes if you give it a chance.
Death Race 41, Sarah 17; 6 out of 24 categories completed
Tags: Gabourey Sidibe Lee Daniels Mo'Nique movies Oscars 2010 Death Race