February 24, 2010


A shocking story, poorly told.

Set in Harlem in 1987, the central character is an obese 16-year-old black girl known as "Precious". She is illiterate, a victim of constant physical and verbal abuse, and has just been kicked out of school for being pregnant with her second child.

Not many films dealing with abuse and incest have made it into the mainstream. And yet, it's an epidemic in our world - with one in four people suffering from sexual abuse at some stage of their lives. For this reason, I commend 'Precious', because it's important that stories like this are told. As a piece of film making however, I was disappointed.

It was a mish-mash of tones, and ultimately didn't seem to know what kind of film it was. At times it felt like a 'Dangerous Minds'-esque story about disadvantaged teens on the path to redemption, at others there was a Lars von Tiers emotional distance from horrific events. Then at times there were comedic moments that were used to alleviate tension form uncomfortable scenes. This sounds great - Shakespeare was a master of blending tones and genres in order to reach the widest audiences, but 'Precious' didn't blend. It relies on "fade-to-black"s to advance the narrative, and this is sloppy film making.

The acting was incredible (particularly from Mo'Nique, who plays the mother), but for some reason I didn't fully engage with any of the characters. Apart from an entertaining Jamaican classmate, they were hackneyed stereotypes, not particularly well-developed. The horrific scenes were heavy and uncomfortable, but dumping them on a screen is kind of a cop-out to me. Shock-tactics are an easy way to get an audience's attention. It's like gratuitous violence in films - often people are so effected by the action that they don't stop to question whether it was necessary.

I know that many people have been deeply effected by 'Precious', so maybe I'm being a bit harsh on the film. The poster advertising the film is fantastic, and it set my expectations high. Maybe if I hadn't see the art work, I wouldn't have been so disappointed in the moive. What's more likely though, is that I wouldn't have gone to see it.

Actually, that wouldn't have been a great loss.

5 / 10.

February 22, 2010


This story unfolds in the desertlands of the Southern States, when a cold blooded murderer, a hunter who has stumbled upon $2 million in drug money, and an aging sheriff become embroiled in the same crime. A game of cat and mouse ensues, and there's no telling who will triumph or be sacrificed.

The simple plot is typical to the Western genre, but in the hands of the Coen brothers it becomes a gripping journey into the depths of the human psyche. Blending their characteristic darkness with an unmistakable Hitchcockian unpredictability, the viewer is left feeling like this is a world where anything could happen.

The film echoes Dante's 'Inferno', and their other hellish thriller "Barton Fink". The three protagonists seem to represent universal archetypes that stand apart from the average human. Anton Chigurh, the murderer: ruthless, supremely powerful, and disgusted by the stupidity, weakness and lack of dignity he perceives in people. Llewelyn Moss, the hunter: a brave and independent spirit, rebelling against the forces that Chigurh has imposed. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell - a man who is searching for what's good.

The world the brothers create in "No Country" could be perceived as a symbol for the world at large: inhabited by simple, guileless people, who have very little control of their destiny, and rampaged by the force of evil. Those with intellect and heart earn a begrudging respect but ultimately can hope to find solace only in the fold of death. Outside it, evil, even when faced with its own mortality, will always triumph. A pretty bleak look at the world, even by the Coen Brothers' standards!

This is an evocative, beautifully shot piece of film making. Although I wonder if 8 Oscar Nominations wasn't a bit of an exaggeration?

8 out of 10.

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