Precious (2010)


Director:  Lee Daniels
Cast:  Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey
Plot:  In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.

Genre:  Drama

Awards:  Won 2 Oscars - Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay.  Nom. for 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Film Editing.
Runtime:  110min
Rating:  M18 for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language.


Somewhere down in the streets of Harlem, a black teenager earns our sympathy.  Her name is Precious.  She is illiterate and has a really huge belly.  Is she obese?  Or is she pregnant?  Actually, she is both.  She comes from a troubled family.  Maybe 'troubled' seems too light a word to describe her family.  You see, her father rapes her, and her mother abuses her verbally and physically.  Occasionally, her grandmother would come to visit, but I think the old lady always leaves with guilt and regret.

Precious, based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, is an independent American film made by a black filmmaker about a black family residing in a predominantly black neighbourhood as they live in poverty and on welfare.  The main plot sees Precious expelled from a public school because of her pregnancy.  However, her principal makes the effort to find her an alternative school where she could learn with 'like-minded' students.

The film’s title character is played by Gabourey Sidibe, whose debut performance is so exceptional that the Academy had to reward her with an acting nomination.  Her mother is played by Mo’Nique, who matches Sidibe’s strong display in a vociferous and vulgar supporting role, winning her the Oscar.  Paula Patton and Mariah Carey round up the cast, playing a teacher-mentor to Precious, and a welfare social worker respectively.

Powerful performances aside, Precious has a conventional storyline but is told in a surprisingly creative way.  Daniels inserts sequences dreamt up by Precious whenever she suffers abuse from her parents or when a bad situation happens.  This would take her mind away from reality, albeit only temporarily.  In her dream, she is a pop star.  She would take center stage as spotlights shine on her, and basking in the adulation showered upon her by her fans.  Only to find herself waking up into a nightmare.

Daniels’ film has a raw vibe to it; the tone of the film is frank but not sincere enough to be emotionally satisfying.  I could feel for the characters, but not entirely so.  Precious is marketed as an inspirational film, but I am reluctant to second that claim.  It is a grim and depressing experience occasionally lightened up by the quite possible hope that Precious could one day make it in life, free from all the poverty and abuse, and raising a family out of pure love.  Watch it, however, for the strength of the performances.


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