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Movie Review: Precious

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Precious is not for the faint of heart. It’s a raw and gritty but ultimately uplifting film that explores the bowels of poverty, misery and abuse, as well as the human spirit and its ability to rise above the most trying of circumstances. The film is drenched in pain, hardship and despair, but by the end it guarantees emotional uplift and a reminder that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Directed with sharp focus and relentless ambition by Lee Daniels (Monster’s Ball), with the novel Push by Sapphire providing source material, the buzzworthy film shares the story of Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones (terrific newcomer Gabourey Sidibe), an obese and illiterate Black teenager living in 1980s Harlem. Sixteen and pregnant with her father’s child, Precious lives in a dingy and dimly lit apartment with her bitter and cruel unemployed mother (comedienne Mo’Nique in a chilling performance) and is abused in almost every way imaginable.

Through her engaging voice-over narration, which provides a contrasting layer of warmth to the movie, we hear her thoughts like (“Sometimes I wish I was dead, but there’s always something in the way”). To cope with her pain she fantasizes about a glamorous life in the spotlight, completed by a “light-skinned boyfriend,” red carpets, high fashion and flashing lights. Understandably, she longs to escape from the trap of poverty, abuse and illiteracy that threatens to destroy her soul.

Expulsion from school offers a blessing in disguise as she is led to an alternative education programme, where she meets Miss Raine (Paula Patton), a good-natured and compassionate teacher, who provides the ray of light Precious has been seeking. Mariah Carey, in a startlingly subtle yet effective performance, appears as a welfare officer seeking answers about Precious’ dysfunctional home life and relationship with her mother.

Precious captures how a lost and damaged girl picks herself up from the most horrific circumstances and steps into the light. Daniels shows courage as a director by treading deep into the pathologies of life in impoverished households and communities, while eliciting award-worthy turns from his cast. Mo’Nique is a clear standout; her performance as the wretched mother is so captivating that she steals every scene she appears in.

Deeply disturbing and provocative, yet well-wrought and superbly acted, Precious is a gem of a movie that could emerge as the darling of the imminent awards season. You know Hollywood is a sucker for a good underdog story.

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About TYRONE S REID - Tallawah

  • Sarah

    I have no intention of seeing any movie with a female lead that has no self esteem, no desire to educate herself and can’t even control her own eating habits. Nothing inspiring about that.

    I can’t identify with her and don’t want to. I can’t celebrate someone who keeps themselves uninformed and see’s no higher than the tops of trees.

    How can the movie inspire anyone when the character herself can not be inspired??

    Nothing here for me to go see nor want my kids to see and I AM a black female!

  • Too bad, Sarah, because you’ll be missing a very powerful and moving experience. Art doesn’t have to be about artificially ‘inspirational’ characters to be uplifting. The closing title of the movie, “For Precious girls everywhere,” hits the audience hard. Lots of sobbing and sniffling in the theater where I saw it today — some of it coming from me!

  • renie

    I saw the movie last night it is very emotional. I like Monique as a comedian but as I watched the movie I forgot that was her and becam outraged with her abuse towards her daughter. That was real activg I hope she recieves an Oscar.

  • How can the movie inspire anyone when the character herself can not be inspired??

    Until you see the movie, I think that you’re not qualified to make some assumptions. The movie is powerful, guttural and as hopeless as it may seem, there are several powerful messages contained within. Before you continue your disdain for it, look to yourself. Is your own self image the factor in dismissing the film?

    I can’t identify with her and don’t want to. I can’t celebrate someone who keeps themselves uninformed and see’s no higher than the tops of trees.

    Who cannot see beyond the toips of the trees? The film rises to the mountaintop. Who is it then, that cannot see beyond the top of the forest? The character in the movie, or yourself?

  • Samantha Clark

    Who says that Precious was uninspired? While she is lacking in the self esteem department, she is constantly battling the forces that oppress her to make her life better for her and her children. While her circumstances are less than ideal, she wakes up each day and tries to make the best of it, eventually overcoming every hurdle thrown in her way and learns to believe in herself FOR herself. While this is not your idealist inspirational story, it makes you grateful for the life that you have been blessed with and appreciate those who have to struggle to make it.

    Oh, and I am a black woman as well.

  • doe

    Sarah, your strong opinion is completely lacking a foundation. You have no idea how Precious survived the Hell she was living. In fact you don’t even know what she did to survive because you have a glancing and superficial view of the story and the film. You seem to have a pop-culture idea that “self-esteem” is what we must have. The correct term is “self-worth”, and that is what Precious eventually acquires in order to survive.

    You use being Black as some sort of badge-of-authority in criticizing a film that you have no actual perspective on [just because it involves a Black girl]. That is shameful and ignorant. Educate yourself about a subject before you offer an opinion.

  • Sarah, it’s interesting that you claim to not be able to identify with a character who “keeps themselves uninformed.”

    The only such character in this conversation is you.

    You obviously have no clue what the film or book are about, and you have no desire to find out… it’s a shame that you’re so close-minded. It’s even more of a shame that you encourage your children to be, also.

    Anyway, the film was wonderful. For all the complaints that “Precious” is “yet another example of black negativity put on display for white consumption,” (quoted from one review I’ve read) the story is universal, and it’s one that needs to be told. There are too many girls like Precious and too many mothers like Mary in every family, in every neighborhood, in every corner of the world.