Review: Precious


There’s no denying that “Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire” is a tough film. The harrowing story of an overweight illiterate 16-year-old girl pregnant by her father for the second time and living with her abusive mother is not the fare most of us go to the theaters for. But sometimes we need a more eye-opening film experience to jar us from the comforts of eye candy action/adventures and Jello pudding romantic comedies.

“Precious” is one of those films worthy of enduring. Director Lee Daniels, in his second effort from behind the camera, is privy to the troubling nature of his film and he adds a subtle layer of beauty and comedy that lifts “Precious” above other social issue dramas that bury themselves in conflict and strife. It makes the story of Clareeice “Precious” Jones seem undeniably like non-fiction when it in fact is not.

A teenager with all the problems mentioned above, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) lives in Harlem in 1987 and has been suspended from school because of her second pregnancy. The principal recommends an alternative school that will teach her to read and get her GED. She hesitates because after all, her mother (TV comedienne Mo’Nique) tells her she’s useless, should’ve been aborted and that there’s no sense in anyone teaching anything to a girl too dumb to learn.

Precious believes all these things about herself and to make herself feel better, whenever she doesn’t want to confront her issues, she fantasizes about being a movie star or a famous singer with a light-skinned boyfriend. Geoffrey Fletcher’s excellent script gives us all these fantasies and daydreams (like Precious seeing her and her mother getting along in the Italian movie they watch on TV) along with all the flashbacks to traumatic events as well. These scenes are where Daniels gets to use his artistic flair to lighten up the film and show us more abstract ways to think about this difficult story.

The film follows Precious’ growth as her new class, classmates and teacher (Paula Patton) help her find a meaningful relationships and sense of family and community as well as give her the valuable skills of reading and writing that she can use to carve out her own life.

Everything you’ve heard about Mo’Nique’s performance as the mother is true. Her character is a wrecking ball and her performance swings that ball in an emotionally devastating manner. The way she treats her daughter while all she does is watch “$100,000 Pyramid” and collect welfare checks that she obtains deceitfully is enough to make anyone’s blood curdle. But playing a horrible person alone doesn’t make you Oscar-worthy. I don’t know how on earth she’s able to take this monster and squeeze a confession out of her that’s so strikingly real and nearly pitiable, but she does. Her psychology of Mary is so complete that although you won’t forgive her, you certainly understand.

“Precious” is worth the more unsettling film experience. It’s not a story with a happy ending, but it shows that no one is a prisoner of her own circumstances. That anyone, as long as they seek out some form of help, can take that first step toward changing her life or at least feel comfortable if not proud of who they are. At first, Precious sees a pretty white girl when she looks in the mirror. By the end, she sees who she is meant to be.

4/5 Stars

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Written by: Geoffrey Fletcher, Sapphire (novel)
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton