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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
3 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Lee Daniels

Written By:
Sapphire, Geoffrey Fletcher

Cast:
Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz, Chyna Layne, Angelic Zambrana, Aunt Dot, Bill Sage, Susan Taylor, Abigail Savage, Rodney 'Bear' Jackson, Roy T. Anderson, Erica Watson, Shortee Red, Sapphire, Nealla Gordon, Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Stephanie Andujar, Amina Robinson, Nealla Gordon, Grace Hightower, Barret Helms, Kimberly Russell, Kendall Toombs, Alexander Toombs, Cory Davis, Rochelle McNaughton, Roy Anthony Tarell Harvey, Linda Watson, Emani Reid, Dashawn Robinson, Ashley Livingston, Maurizio Arseni, Chazz Menendez, Quishay Powell, Vivien Eng, Matthew Bralow, Shayla Stewart, Ephraim Benton, Timothy Allen, Nigel Joaquin, Esley Tate, Xosha Roquemore, Mugga, Silje Vallevik


 
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
November 9th, 2009

'Precious' is one of the year's best films, emotionally devastating, but ironically quite heart-warming in ways one simply does not expect. This is not an easy movie to watch, and it pulls no punches when it comes to its intense and terrifying depictions of abuse, and its title character's soul-crushing existence in a poor, underprivileged neighborhood. The rather long, and unwieldy subtitle indicates the source material, a novel by Sapphire, which was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, who serves as one of the executive producers of this flick, along with Tyler Perry. Perry's involvement might come as a bit of a surprise, but I think he probably saw a lot of value in this story, and its ability to inspire, considering the sad reality many young black people face in urban areas across the country.

Newcomer Gabby Sidibe, whose astonishing performance is sure to garner an Oscar nomination, plays Clareece "Precious" Jones, an obese and illiterate teenager who lives with her quick-tempered, domineering, and often downright cruel mother Mary (Mo'Nique). Mary has worked to strip her daughter of any self-respect she may wish to retain; she tells her that she is dumb, and that no one cares about her, and that she has no meaningful future, and should just wait until she is old enough to get on welfare. Precious, at 16, is pregnant with her second child, a result of being raped by her father. She loves her children, and struggles to find the courage to stand up to Mary, who responds to defiance with severe physical beatings.

Mary does have to confront allegations of abuse from Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey), her case officer, a woman who is tasked with determining what is in Precious's best interests, and who wants to do all she can to help both Precious and Mary. Mrs. Weiss asks some tough questions, and Mary accuses her of insensitivity, and ignorance of her own difficult situation. She all but demands sympathy and understanding, and the film grants her at least the latter, audiences will likely deny her the former.

Mary is complicit in all of the awful things that happen to Precious, and director Lee Daniels and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher portray her unflatteringly and uncompromisingly, avoiding caricature and a predictable phase of redemption, making her wholly detestable, but also desperate to put on a mask of false concern and sincerity when confronted about her behavior. What she does in the presence of social workers, who otherwise would remove Precious from her custody, is truly appalling. Precious does find some comfort when she enters the classroom of kind-hearted teacher Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), who takes an active interest in her students' lives. Patton and Carey are wonderful in their strong supporting roles; Carey has rebounded nicely from the disaster of Glitter, and proves she actually has some acting talent.

Aside from Sidibe, however, we have an extraordinary showcase for Mo'Nique, who has, up to this point, been relegated to comic material, in sitcoms and other ventures. It is very possible that Mo'Nique will also receive an Oscar nomination, but a win would not be impossible; few performances this year have been as compelling or as frighteningly believable. I applaud Sidibe, who is obviously a great discovery, and likely has a bright future ahead of her.

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