In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen (Sidibe) 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.
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An unrelenting, uncompromising and unconventional film with profound messages of hope and second chances, Precious is an emotionally wrenching film that grips you from start to finish, and honestly, never let’s go. The character Precious is fat, illiterate, mother of two at the age of 16, and lost. Her life has left her numb to the world. When threatened, bullied or abused, she escapes to a fantasy world. You can’t watch this film and not feel something, whether moved or disgusted Lee Daniels creates such a gritty violent world that it is impossible for anyone to look away unscathed.
Unknown actress Gabourey Sidibe brings a touch of authenticity to the film. For the most part, she’s quiet, only showing glimpses for her emotion when belittled by her mother or peers. Initially it bothered me because she was giving no response or reaction, however, the more I thought about it, I realized that her subtlety was appropriate for the character.
Precious has been through this since the day she was born, and can emotionally separate herself during confrontations. That’s not to say she’s not feeling anything inside. Precious is hurting inside, its pain that only she understands and we only get a peek at whenever she’s alone. But on the outside she appears cold and distant. It’s a survival tactic.
Mo’Nique is terrifyingly convincing as a hateful abusive mother who faced extreme hardships that parallels Precious, however, the difference between the two is that Precious has people who believe in her. Mary has no one. She had a boyfriend who rejected her in favor of her daughter, despite the fact that he raped Precious, Mary was angered for simply being rejected. She blames Precious for taking “her man.” Mary is what Precious would be if she went down that same hopeless path, but, with people like Blu Rain (Patton) and Ms. Weiss (Carey) Precious has a chance.
Through the gritty and bleak nature of the film, Patton and Ms. Weiss are the shining light to guide Precious from the nightmarish abyss. The warm Paula Patton is inspiring as a teacher unwillingly to give up on someone she believes in. While Patton provides the education, Carey gives Precious the strength she needs to stand up to her mother. The final scene with Mo’Nique, Sidibe, and Carey is heartbreaking, riveting, chilling, and compelling. Precious’s entire life was building up to that moment.
I was reluctant to the see Precious. I thought the movie was exploiting a certain part of America simply for entertainment value shrouded in cheesy melodramatic moments. But wow, was I wrong. Lee Daniels takes something that would have been a Lifetime movie and creates nothing short of a profound and inspiring tale of a woman’s struggle to find hope.
I suppose the only downside to film are the distracting escape fantasies that Precious goes to whenever assaulted verbally or physically. I understand the reasons behind them, and I agree with it, however, the fantasy sequences take away from the moment. There is one scene in particular in which you learn about Precious’s health, but just as you’re given the news, she ventures off into a dream, escaping reality. It’s such a gut wrenching moment that moving away from it I felt took away the power of the scene.
Precious is not an easy film to sit through. There are several tough scenes that appear to be in competition in terms of outdoing the other for shock value, however, the value in it is not for entertainment purposes. The purpose is to examine a part of life so many of us try to dismiss or are simply ignorant about. But to dismiss this film is a disservice to yourself because despite the graphic nature and bleak tone, Precious is an inspiring and captivating film that demands you to watch.