Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the alien invasion flick “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams, “Loving,” with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga and “Almost Christmas” with Danny Glover, Mo’Nique and Gabrielle Union.
It may be a warmer than usual November, but at the movie theatres, it’s already Christmas. It’s not a Christmas miracle, it’s a movie hoping to grab double digit grosses to go along with the month’s double-digit temperatures.
Danny Glover is Walter, the recently widowed patriarch of a large family. Retired and lonely he invites his four children, daughters Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) and sons Christian (Romany Malco) and Evan (Jessie Usher) and the extended family home to Birmingham, Alabama for the holidays. “This is our first Christmas without your mother,” says Walter. “Just five days for you all to act like a family.” It’s not the twelve days of Christmas, it’s five fraught filled days as the family tries to get along. Cheryl and Rachel can barely stand being in the same room together for reasons neither of them can remember and Christian can’t seem to stop working long enough to enjoy the visit. “We’re not going to make it to Christmas are we?” “Not a damn chance,” sighs Aunt May (Mo’Nique).
“Almost Christmas” is like a Bollywood movie. There’s action, tragedy, a dance number, comedy, romance, humour, infidelity and even a slightly risqué bit of slapstick. It has something for everyone and if you can hold on tight as it rockets between heart warming and humourous with the speed of Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, you’ll have a pretty good time.
It’s barely a movie in the strictest sense. It’s more a collection of moments strung together as old ghosts rear their ugly heads during the few festive days the family spends under the same roof. It’s episodic but melodramatically likable as it careens toward a funny and over-the-top dinner scene that involves everything from hurt feelings and guns to Danny Glover’s most famous line from “Lethal Weapon.” The siblings—and everyone else—learn that despite their differences they are stronger together than individually.
Not that you need to be told that. The story telegraphs everything that’s going to happen—there are no surprises under this Christmas tree—but does so in a way that is as sweet as the Potato Pie the family enjoys at dinner.
There is nothing precious about the movie “Precious”. Nothing twee or frivolous. If the word “heartbreaking” hadn’t already existed in the English language it might have been invented to describe the story of Clareece “Precious” Jones an inner city NYC kid with big problems.
“Precious” is about the power of the educational system to help lift a person up from adversity but it is much more than just an inspirational teacher movie. It’s a movie about victims—one who transcends and one who doesn’t. “To Sir with Love” this isn’t.
Set in 1987 Harlem it follows the progress of “Precious” Jones, a pregnant, overweight and illiterate sixteen year old. She lives with her welfare mother Mary (Mo’Nique) in a rundown apartment where she lives a life of constant mental, physical and sexual abuse. “I’ll be OK,” says Precious. “I’m always looking up… looking for a piano to fall. There’s always something in my way.”
The only thing that keeps her on an even keel is her rich inner life, but even that is filled with self hate. When she looks in the mirror she imagines a skinny, pretty blonde girl staring back at her. Despite her big dreams she feels people regard her and her family as “black grease that needs to be wiped away.” The one bright spot in her life is Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) a supportive alternative school teacher. With her encouragement Precious may find a way out of her hellish situation.
“Precious” is one of the most grueling movie experiences of the year. It transports the viewer to an uncomfortably down-and-dirty world were pain and anguish are the price of admission. Hope, for Precious, is a dim light at the end of a very long tunnel but director Lee Daniels keeps the movie from being an exercise in viewer self flagellation with pitch perfect (and unexpected) casting and a sure narrative hand.
Cast wise the most surprising element to “Precious” is a career making performance from comedian Mo’Nique in a decidedly non-comedic role. Best known for parts in low budget comedies like Soul Plane and Beerfest she shows a dramatic side here as Mary, a vicious mother and welfare scammer.
Who would have imagined her (potentially) Oscar worthy scene would be opposite Mariah Carey? Carey’s work as a tough-as-nails social worker should erase all the ill will her “performance” in “Glitter” earned, and who knows, maybe she’ll be able to add an acting prize to her Grammy shelf come awards time.
At the center of it all is first timer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe in the title role. She pulls off a difficult portrayal, making it believable; giving Precious the dignity she needs to survive and shows some real backbone in a character who could easily have been a cliché.
“Precious” is filled with disturbing imagery—incest and abuse—although when the going gets tough, mercifully, the screen often fades to black, but not always, and that is one of the strengths of the film. It doesn’t back away from the real life horror of Precious’s life. It’s bleak yes, but compelling.