There’s probably no point in my reviewing Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire because I probably have little to add to what’s already been said (though that has never stopped me before, just ask my friends). It’s exhilarating and exciting, powerful and powerfully moving, etc., etc., with a screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher that gets its point across without looking like that’s all it’s doing. It’s not nearly the downer one would think from what the previews and what the circumstances the central character Precious finds herself in would suggest. The reason this is surprisingly uplifting is probably for two reasons: the quirky direction by Lee Daniels who uses all sorts of fun, non-realistic methods to tell his story (sort of like Woody Allen in Annie Hall, an odd comparison, but for me, still apt). And for a reason that is probably the movie’s main fault: the almost unbelievable, if not totally unbelievable, resilience shown by Precious, who no matter what horror is thrown in her direction, is not defeated, but finds a way to rise up against it, to get up the next morning determined to make a better life for herself, when in reality, most people in her circumstances would have been hopelessly destroyed long before. Gabourey Sadibe seems like one of those found actors, someone who is cast because they aren’t an actor, and her performance lands somewhere in between: not totally amateurish, but not totally professional. She hits just the right note to make her character and the movie work and she has that one heartbreaking scene where she begs her teacher (played by Paula Patton) not to lie to her when she says that no one loves her. Of course, the acting stand out is Mo’Nique as Precious’s monstrous mother Mary. She has an incredible scene at the end where she confronts Precious and Precious’s social worker (played by a deglamorized Mariah Carey) and explains why she is the way she is. What is remarkable about this speech (kudos to Fletcher for this) is that just when you think you are going to feel empathy for Mary, Mary keeps going in her defense. She goes so far, that any feelings of empathy suddenly turn to outrage and horror as you realize just how much of a monster Mary really is. It’s a lovely film (again an odd choice of words, but still for me, apt).
The main reason to see The Vicious Kind is for Adam Scott’s performance. Scott is one of our more underrated actors, perhaps a bit too quirky in looks to make it as a traditional lead, so is relegated to playing character parts like this (it’s a difficult job, but, hey, someone’s got to do it and thank God for actors like Scott who can). Here he plays Caleb, a man almost totally defined by anger, anger against his father, anger against women (his misogyny almost knows no bounds), anger fueled by his inability to sleep or even relax. The basic plot is that Caleb gives his brother Peter (Alex Frost) and Peter’s knew girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) a ride home from college for Thanksgiving which will be held at his and Peter’s father ‘s (J.K. Simmons), though Caleb himself won’t be attending because he and his father have been angry and haven’t spoken ever since Caleb’s mother died years earlier. Caleb thinks that Emma, like all women, is a slut and will do nothing but hurt Alex, so he tries to sabotage their relationship by coming on to Emma himself and the two end up having sex. Beyond Adam’s performance, which holds the movie together and gives it the interest it does, I was never convinced by much of the story. The reason for Adam’s misogyny and hatred toward his father was not strong enough for me and seemed more a construct of the author (director Lee Toland Krieger). Emma also seems a construct of the author; she never really seems to have a character herself and her reason for falling for Caleb doesn’t seem to be because her character would, but because that’s just the way women are, always falling for the bad boy rather than the good one. This is one of those movies where relationships are defined by who can give the female character an orgasm (and true to form, guess who that is, the bad boy filled with anger and unresolved issues or the good one who is really in love with her—if you can’t answer this, you need to get out to the movies more or at least watch a little more television). It’s well shot and looks grainily realistic and it does hold interest. Krieger obviously has talent, but this movie seemed to get away from him a little bit.