Original release: November 6th, 2009
Running time: 106 min
Director: Lee Daniels
Writers Geoffrey S. Fletcher, Sapphire
Cast: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz
There aren’t that many films that get under my skin the way that Precious did. So much so that it’s taken me this long to finally write about it. The truth is, I just wasn’t sure I could put into words what I felt, and how I still feel, about it.
It’s based on the debut novel Push by Sapphire which tells the story of Clarice “Precious” Jones, an obese and illiterate 16-year-old living in the New York City ghetto of Harlem with her abusive mother, Mary.
In the film we see Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) struggling at school and being mercilessly bullied by her ignorant classmates. Later on we learn she’s also pregnant for the second time by her father. When she’s offered a place at an alternative school, her mother, played by Mo’Nique, is vehemently against the idea of her child learning to be better than she is and the evening results in another beating for Precious.
The next morning, knowing an education will be good for her, Precious makes her way to the new school. Over the course of the next year and under the tutorship of Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), Precious begins to transform her life, opening up the path to a bright future.
Precious is nothing like the typical “feel good” films I’ve seen throughout my life and yet it’s a life-affirming hour and a half. It’s gritty and deeply affecting, especially when we see what Precious faces everyday. Where there are clouds, there’s always a chance of rain, but even when it pours, nothing makes Precious give up hope – not even in her darkest moments, which there are plenty of.
The performances in the film are extraordinary. Gabourey Sidibe does an incredible job as Precious; she captures innocence and hope in a character where you wouldn’t think there would be any left. Mo’Nique as the venomous Mary is terrifying but we also feel overwhelmingly sorry for her because she doesn’t know any better.
It was only as the credits rolled that I realised Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz were in this film; up until then I had no idea who the roles of social worker Ms. Weiss and nursing assistant, John McFadden were played by. They appeared so unlike their personas we’re used to seeing in their musical careers and were virtually unrecognisable. As for Paula Patton as Ms. Rain, she’s always a breath of fresh air in any role she takes on and she plays the part with much grace, sympathy and love. Her scenes with Sidibe are moving and unforgettable.
The film highlights so many issues; AIDS, education, welfare, equal rights, incest, safe sex, abuse…it’s very hard to say which one rung true the most because as a whole the film creates a potent mix.
It’s uncompromising in its approach and while it’s upsetting and shocking to see her Precious beaten with a frying pan by her mother, pushed to the ground by boys on the street and being raped by her father, we also see how she uses her imagination to escape this Hell. She dreams of being a world famous star, arriving at premieres and performing at shows and we hold on to that dream for her throughout.
Sapphire’s novel was first published in 1996 and it took 13 years to bring it to the screen, but I think it came at the right time where we’re now more willing to talk about the issues a film like this raises. I’d like to think so anyway.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .