'Precious' or My Mother the Maniac

There is absolutely no false uplift to Mo’Nique’s harridan of a Harlem mother in Precious, but for those of us hungering for more authentic portrays of motherhood on the big screen, this isn’t it. She makes Joan Crawford’s wire-hanger wielding mama seem like June Cleaver.

On the upside: watching this movie has the potential to banish any lingering doubts you may have had about whether you are a good, or good enough, mother because the bar couldn’t be set any lower. My friends and I spend a lot of time worrying about things like whether it’s alright to chastise other people’s spoiled children when they bully our own, or whether we’re pushing our tweens too hard to study for the SSAT, or if we should monitor their Facebook activity or if that’s an invasion of privacy. Trust me: We’re all saints compared to Precious’s mom, and that’s one of the things that make the film warped and icky. The condescension that we come to feel toward the characters and their portrayal.

Does watching bad mothers in movies make you feel better about yourself as a parent? Chime in below!

There’s a point when Mo’Nique’s Mary (is the Madonna’s name a coincidence?) drops a TV down a flight of tenement stairs on her daughter Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) and her newborn baby that is so high-pitched it would have been hysterical if directed by John Waters and played by the late, great Divine. But even Divine managed to imbue his cartoon characters with humanity, something sorely lacking in this Mary mother of Precious.

As a mother, I was appalled at the level of abuse, and its kitschy, almost pornographic depiction. At one point Mary sexually abuses her daughter. This happens off camera, as does the statutory rape by Mary’s boyfriend that led to their daughter Precious’s incestuous pregnancy. On camera, Mary abusively orders Precious to cook her pig’s feet, and then complains that there’s a hair on the hoof. In another scene, she exploits her granddaughter with Down syndrome as a prop to weasel money out of the welfare system.

I would never let my children see it and, thanks to an R rating, hopefully no parent will be tempted to take their kids with them.

Sometimes a movie comes along that captures the national imagination. But Precious begs the question: what Kool-Aid were these folks drinking? Sure, the drama is moving. When I see an accident on the side of the road, I slow down with the rest of the drivers on the highway. And, if there’s a blood splotch, I may even stop cold like everybody else!

There’s no denying that Mo’Nique makes Mary her own as much as Margaret Hamilton rocked the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s likely that the actress will join that elite group walking the red carpet at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater on March 7, 2010. Still, don’t be dazzled by the hype -- this is a monstrous melodrama.

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