Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Here is the toughest movie to sit through all year, and oddly enough it’s not the lowest of the Hollywood dreck, it’s a film depicting some of the harshest human reality.  Lee Daniels directs “Precious: Based on a Novel By Sapphire.”  Forget the ridiculous subtitle, this is a movie meant as a message for victims of abuse (based on a novel I haven’t read), not for gloss, glamor or any of the numerous awards attention its landed.

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe plays Precious, an overweight, illiterate sixteen year-old African-American middle schooler who is pregnant with her second child of her own father’s after being raped.  She sits in class without saying a word or even looking others in the eye.  She goes home to a rundown apartment in Harlem only to endure the physical and mental abuse of her bitter and angry mother (Mo’Nique) who blames her for stealing away her boyfriend.  Precious is convinced that she is wasted space–stupid, ugly, and will never find anyone that cares for her.  That is until she is referred to a special school where a teacher (Paula Patton) instructs her how to read and write, and strives to prove to her that she is valuable.

While it may sound like the Lifetime movie of the week, these dramas rarely strive for honesty like “Precious” does.  This movie depicts violence, rape, and abuse as real  and as confusing as it is to our main character.  Much of this is hard to watch, as it should be.  But Lee Daniels isn’t sugarcoating anything, and he’s also not exploiting his topic.  The four actresses in this movie help keep things in check.  Sidbe is heartbreaking.  Mo’Nique is completely absorbed in her ruthless character.  Paula Patton holds her own in the cliche ‘inspirational teacher’ role, Ms. Rain, a role that lends itself more gravity than I would have anticipated.  Perhaps the oddest choice among the four is Mariah Carey (in a role you absolutely won’t recognize her in, because I sure didn’t).  She plays a social worker having nearly as much invested in Precious as Ms. Rain.  Together these actresses are an unstoppable force in a film only hindered by music video type sequences that Precious envisions to take herself out of her tormented life.  Sadly, they take the audience out of the drama once in a while.  But otherwise, this movie sticks to its guns.  “Precious” looks for the very small twinkle of light at the end of a very dark tunnel, and eventually it gets there, but it’s a rough road.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)