Oprah's Latest Movie Pick Is Shamelessly Liberal

By the time Precious finds out she has HIV, well, the movie is fully in bumper-sticker mode. Honk if you feel sorry for black unwed teen illiterate incest-and-rape victims with AIDS!

But didn’t you already feel sorry for incest victims? For rape victims? For poor people? I did. I didn’t really need a shamelessly manipulative movie to get me to that point and encourage me to feel proud of how enlightened I am to recognize the obvious.

Is Precious effective? It is, sometimes, but just as often it’s the political equivalent of a slasher movie. The attacks on Precious never relent. It’s like the world is set up specifically to terrorize her. Her only respite is her fantasy view of herself, as a celebrated song-and-dance personality who gets to wear fancy clothes on TV, and in several colorful sequences we get a look at this inner life of our heroine the way she so obviously isn’t. These moments are a little bit funny, but mostly they’re sad. That’s unfortunate, because they essentially keep us looking down at Precious as a charity case instead of really understanding her.

The movie is getting a heavy promotional push from Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, which probably tells you all you need to know. A movie located at the intersection of Sundance and Oprah is likely to mean arty, in a middlebrow way; a grit that’s sentimental; the politics of emotion. It reserves its greatest degree of absurdity for the end, when it starts to imply that everything is going to be all right with Precious because she can now, sort of, read. Because for all its “authenticity,” it’s the phony happy ending that makes it Oprah-worthy.