Sunday, December 20, 2009
I wrote one of my new twitter friends, a Hollywood agent, venting my feeling that the subject of child sexual molestation, and more specifically, its effect on adult survivors, seems to be a skittish topic. Granted, the subject of child abuse is common. Usually it's the violent kind of abuse. Not sexual. Those that do cover it seem to have their victims committing mass murder, rapes, drug overdoses, and other sorts of crimes.
My criticism that there are millions of people who experienced abuse who have not done any of those things. Consequently, whenever someone of note admits to being abused as a child, and if it's connected with some crime they were recently caught at (i.e. Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, etc), most victims will not want to associate their names with those types. Or, those kind of movies.
That class of 'victims' appear like they're blaming the past for terrible deeds done in the present. If they hadn't got caught in the first place, they would have skipped happily along in denial. Those kind of stories turn child abuse into some kind of 'get out of jail' card for those who are already bound for jail.
The agent I contacted did not believe this to be the case.
Getting any movie made is difficult, she noted, but there have been movies about child abuse, which she sent me.
I had seen most of the movies, and they usually involved soap opera involving the rich and powerful, a victim rising up and killing her perpetrator, or worse. So, the lady I communicated with advised, "See Precious and Searching for Angela Shelton."
I saw Precious yesterday, on her advice, and I must say this movie has stuck with me.
In order to properly discuss this movie, I will have to expose a spoiler. However, this movie is so good, even revealing the spoiler won't spoil it. Like any good movie, or book, it doesn't just get its power from the mere plot. It gets its power through the dedicated performances, the subtle script, and the execution of the fantasy sequences that Precious uses to escape her predicament.
Precious (played by Gabourey Sidibe) is an obese 18 year old, attending a school in Harlem, with a very abusive mom waiting for her. Mary, her mother does not work. She encourages her daughter to go on welfare, then throws things at her when she falls an inch short of her advice. Precious has one child by an unknown father. She will give birth to another child by the time the movie ends.
Who is the father of the child? This unknown male source?
The climax of this movie has Mariah Carey, stripped of all her diva attire, playing Mrs. Weiss, a social worker, getting to the bottom of this dilemma.
Mrs. Weiss, upon figuring out the deceased father of Precious is responsible for the first child, and the mother's current boyfriend responsible for the second, asks, "When did the abuse start?"
The mother, played by Mo'Nique, reveals it began when Precious was an infant. The mother was, in fact, a witness. She would keep the infant by her side at all times. It was while having sex with her husband that Mary notices her husband fingering the infant.
Not even Precious knew that! How could she remember? That final scene is the most effective, tear jerking moment that the movies, en masse, have delivered all year. Probably the entire decade!
The baby of Precious is nearly wounded when Mary throws a television set at her. Precious is holding the baby when the set hits them both.
Precious, amazingly, ends with triumph. The truth now revealed. The victim now vindicated. Walking with her two children whom she just saved from her abusive mother into a new future. A new life.
What will the future bring? Who knows! Nobody goes to jail. Nobody gets the death penalty. Nobody goes to court. Yet, the exposure of the truth, the shear utterance of facts, provides Precious with her own sense of triumph.
My only quibble is the fact that it is set in an inner city. Yet, that is the reality of her situation.
Just like the story of Mackenzie Phillips abuse can be marginalized as a story that can only happen with fast living rock stars, people can marginalize Precious as just a story of a poor soul in the ghetto.
That is why we need more movies like this! Movies about survivors from different economic classes to show this problem is widespread.
I'm tempted to mention American Beauty, since that does center on the suburbs, and a minor is molested by the end of the movie. American Beauty, though, is not a movie about surviving abuse. Abuse just plays a role in the story which, ultimately, is about an adult male coming to terms with his life.
The abuse portrayed in Precious is happening everywhere. Not just in Harlem.
What makes the situation of Precious so unusual is the fact that. . .it doesn't seem to be unusual.
During the last three years of writing this blog, I have read about cases where infants have been abused. Given the context of this blog, it has been in either missionary schools (see 'All God's Children'), or in the house of the devoted (see 'Deliver Us From Evil').
Loyal readers of this blog might remember the case involving Dave Hyles, son of the late Jack Hyles (pastor of the 'World's Largest Baptist Church'), being investigated for battery upon an infant. The book Fundamental Seduction mentions 'Mrs. John R. Rice' (wives of fundamentalist preachers seem to lose their entire names, not just their last!) stopping Dave from shaking a child.
I do find it interesting that Precious is distributed by Lion's Gate.
Lion's Gate also is responsible for Deliver Us From Evil and Hard Candy.
Hard Candy is a movie about a pre-teenage friend of a victim who tracks down a pedophile, and, through intelligence and manipulation, stops him from committing his crime ever again! I won't reveal the spoiler of that movie. I don't recommend that victims of child abuse seek closure the way our heroine does in Hard Candy.
Lion's Gate might be the company we can rely on for decent movies about surviving abuse.
Okay, next movie to be reviewed: Searching for Angela Shelton.
In the meantime, check out these links:
Roger Ebert reviews Precious.
The Lionsgate surviving abuse collection:
strangers shouldn't talk to little girls!
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Posted by Mr6 at 1:31 PM