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Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 18-09-2010

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Description
Precious Jones, an inner-city high school girl, is illiterate, overweight, and pregnant…again. Naïve and abused, Precious responds to a glimmer of hope when a door is opened by an alternative-school teacher. She is faced with the choice to follow opportunity and test her own boundaries. Prepare for shock, revelation and celebration.Amazon.com
Not every movie can survive the kind of hype–multiple awards at Sundance and other festivals, rapturous reviews, the pr… More >>

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

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Comments (5)

Perhaps “thought provoking” isn’t the right phrase to use. This movie will whip you about and leave you breathless, most especially if you’ve never really considered the plight of children/people like Precious.

I have been teaching adult students for a little over ten years now, and I have had many women whose backgrounds were similar to Precious’ background, so the subject matter wasn’t new to me. I expected to be moved, but I didn’t expect to have to struggle to stop crying after the movie was over.

The movie is about a teenager named Precious (a truly ironic name, as she is told and shown repeatedly that she is NOT precious to anyone in her immediate circle) and the horrific circumstances of her life at the age of 16. She is pregnant with her second child, the product of incest (her “father” rapes her, a fact which her mother chooses instead to see as Precious threatening her by taking away her man and giving him more babies than he ever allowed the mom to have), and she is barely holding together some semblance of a normal life by keeping her true circumstances from everyone around her.

When her school principal becomes aware of her pregnancy, she decides to send Precious to an alternative school, and for the first time, the teenager has an opportunity to see her own potential and to have that potential respected by others. It’s a truly life-altering opportunity, and Precious takes it.

What’s really amazing in this film is the excellence of the acting. You’ve likely heard time and time again how Mariah Carey doesn’t wear makeup and looks haggard and old, and you’ve probably heard about Monique’s superb turn as Precious’ mother. What can’t be conveyed without you actually watching the movie is what all that means. To me, it meant witnessing moments when an actor found ways to manipulate his/her body language and expressions to create a character in one movement. Precious, for example, is both a burdened, pitiful human being whose scrunched-up face and blank expression tell the audience that she is very nearly spiritually dead. Then, in an instant, she begins to daydream, and her body, her expression, her entire carriage is transformed. She radiates happiness and sensuality, a sense of being totally alive and joy-filled. It’s more than the clothing and makeup. It’s everything that shows up on her face, in the way she moves, in the lifting of her brow so that she no longer looks closed off to life. Incredible.

Monique is also excellent, from the bland expression of a couch potato who is frozen before the tube to the rage of a woman who feels betrayed by the very daughter she has betrayed so often. Awesome. There is a scene where she is trying to convince someone that she loves Precious, and she earnestly tries to prove that she has strongly positive and loving memories of her daughter, only to find that she can’t even get the dates in the memory right, that she can’t get something as important as a milestone date right. The expression on her face as she realizes both the depths of her own abandonment of her daughter and the fact that others can see through her I’m-a-great-mom facade–excellent.

There are many uncomfortable moments in this movie, moments that made my fellow audience members laugh but which truly were heartbreaking. In the midst of horrible abuse, a tiny glimmer of something funny–so tough to take, but also evidence of how life is rarely simply one thing or another.

Precious’ life will blow you away if you’ve never met or known anyone like her. It will sadden you, and hopefully it will enrage you enough to do more for people like her. I know that it made me think about the strong women I’ve taught who pulled themselves out of situations like the one depicted in the movie, and it made me more determined to really get to know my students so that someone like Precious will not slip through the cracks when I can possibly help.

See this movie because the acting is so superb. Remember it because its imagery is powerful and real. And hopefully, never forget that there are many, many women and children out there who have had lives like Precious’.
Rating: 5 / 5

To my surprise, this soul-baring 2009 drama is neither as painful nor depressing as the subject matter would imply. In fact, director Lee Daniels’ treatment alternates so fluently between gritty realism, social uplift, and fanciful episodes of fantasy that the end result is as much enthralling as it is emotionally draining. First-time screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher does a solid job adapting the 1996 source novel by Sapphire, Push, but the strength and honesty of the cast is what sears in the memory. Daniels could have been otherwise charged with stunt casting had he not drawn out such powerhouse work from the out-of-left-field likes of comedienne Mo’Nique and pop diva Mariah Carey. Granted Daniels in his second directorial effort is not the most subtle of filmmakers (his first film was the strangely exotic Shadowboxer), but he does bring a level of florid passion that the subject desperately needs to alleviate the unrelenting bleakness of the title character’s existence.

Set in Harlem in 1987, the story centers on sixteen-year-old Claireece “Precious” Jones, a morbidly obese girl so void of self-worth that she refers to herself without irony as “ugly black grease to be washed from the street”. Nearly illiterate, she finds herself pregnant for the second time by her father, and the school principal arranges to enroll Precious at an “alternative” institution. She recognizes this as an opportunity to better herself, but her mother Mary discourages it and forces Precious to apply for welfare. The unenviable mother-daughter relationship is the crux of the film, and it is here the film gives an unblinking account of monstrous physical and psychological abuse that explains the sharp contrast between Precious’ inner and outer lives. On the outside, she is a forlorn yet formidable presence with a face so full that she can’t express emotion without a great deal of effort. On the inside, she is loved and admired unconditionally. The two slowly come together at Precious’ new school where she finds acceptance and redemption through a dedicated teacher (improbably named Blu Rain), who must get through to a classroom full of girls all disadvantaged in their own ways.

The birth of Precious’ son, along with the bonding she feels at school, signals a harrowing showdown between mother and daughter and ultimately a confrontation between Mary and Mrs. Weiss, the no-nonsense social worker who seeks the truth behind Precious’ home life. In the title role, Gabourey Sidibe is ideally cast given the film’s semi-documentary approach. An untrained actress, she is able to elicit empathy by giving herself completely to the inchoate character, and when Precious breaks down from the weight of yet another seemingly insurmountable development, Sidibe gives the scene a halting honesty. Paula Patton (Swing Vote) gets to play the Sidney Poitier role of the elegantly transformative teacher as Ms. Rain, but she gives the too-good-to-be-true character a palpable sense of passion. As Mrs. Weiss, a role originally slated for Helen Mirren (who co-starred in Daniels’ “Shadowboxer”), Mariah Carey, bereft of her glistening make-up and diva mannerisms, brings an audacious toughness to her smallish but pivotal role.

However, it is Mo’Nique (Phat Girlz) who gives the film’s most shattering performance. I don’t know what emotional reservoir she is tapping into, but she nails Mary with a fury so startling and realistic that it’s impossible to trivialize the source of her villainy. She never compromises the hardness in her character, and her self-justifying monologue is an impressive piece of work. There is also solid work from a couple of other unusually cast performers, comedienne Sherri Shepherd (of the morning TV talkfest “The View”) as a tough school administrator aptly named Cornrows and Lenny Kravitz as a sympathetic male nurse, and a scene-stealing turn from Xosha Roquemore as the ebullient Joann (“My favorite color is florescent beige”). Not all of Daniels’ left-turn devices work, for instance, using Sophia Loren’s Two Women as the basis of one of Precious’ fantasies seems contrived given only a die-hard cineaste would understand the connection. Regardless, it’s no wonder that Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry put their stamp of approval on the film as executive producers since Precious ultimately finds a personal triumph despite the hand life has dealt her.
Rating: 4 / 5

This movie shows the reality of lives that are affected by incest and where choice seems a fairy tale. Both of Precious’ parents are locked in a life of immorality and illegality and have no way out. Precious too seems headed down that road but for the intervention of her principal that moves her to an alternative school where she can get individual attention and where her past does not have to swallow her. Much abusive language but the effect puts the viewer into Precious’ life so that you too can experience the threats and put downs. Not for the faint hearted but more films like this are needed to awake the world to the effects of incest and ridicule. First class acting throughout. A must see really! It is ironic that all of the people I know named Precious have had lives that attempted to stunt their development. What’s in a name?
Rating: 4 / 5

With the many nominations and awards Precious is likely to receive this year, I’m fairly confident “feel-good movie of the year” won’t be one of them. This film pulls no punches, and given the path it could have taken in trying to gloss up bleak and violent subject matter into a more thrilling and stylized type drama (see Slumdog Millionaire), I commend this movie for sticking to its guns.

The driving force behind this movie is the unyielding performance of Mo’Nique, who plays Precious’s verbally and physically abusive mother, Mary. I would be very surprised not to see her name in the Best Supporting Actress ballot this year. Gabourey Sidibe, in the role of Precious, also delivers a tender and heartbreaking performance as an obese, illiterate 16-year old who has suffered from a lifetime of brutality and neglect. Even Mariah Carey (yes, that Mariah Carey) does a very good job in her small role as a sympathetic yet hard-nosed social worker trying to get Precious to finally open up about her violent and trauma filled home life.

It’s some of the little things in this film that really make it work. For instance, there is a scene about halfway through the film where Precious is sitting in her hospital room after recently giving birth to her second child. Her life outlook at this point is nothing short of dreadful, yet surrounded by her friends from class and her doctor who proves to be one of the few people in her life who actually care about her, Precious seems to be genuinely happy for the first time in her life.

While Lee Daniels directing proves to be very erratic at times, the strengths of lead performances are what really carry this movie along. While I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece like many other seem to be doing, Precious is still a very good film that takes a gritty and honest look into the life of a child succumbed to a lifetime of physical and mental abuse.

-Jeffrey Ryan

[…]
Rating: 3 / 5

I meant to write a review of “Precious” even before I watched it. Lots of times, writing the review is more satisfying than watching the film. This is harder. I felt my heart constrict in the first scene of Precious. My eyes and temple began to throb. I could scarcely catch my breath the rest of the way through the film. “Life” requires too much of us sometimes. Sometimes even a simulation of Life requires too much.

Improbable as it may seem, coming from a retired classical musician like me, who has lived fairly well most of his life, a lot of the misery portrayed in Precious is horribly familiar and real. The poverty and brutishness and the haplessness of both takers and givers of “welfare” are not exaggerated here. Yeah, things seldom move that quickly or that much in ‘real time’, and yeah, Precious’s classmates evolve from intolerable to empathetic as if by miracle. But the story line isn’t very central to this film, or rather to my response to this film, which is all Sorrow for all of us, from Precious to Queen Elizabeth II. Life hurts too much. The rosy glow of Hope in “Precious”, which some critics have applauded and some derided, is more light than warmth. There really isn’t much chance for that girl-woman in the film, except for the one-in-sixty-million chance that she’ll be discovered by a film maker.

“Precious” had a hundred times the impact on me that “The Hurt Locker” had. But I can’t sit in judgment on the “art” of it as cinema. For sure, I won’t forget it as quickly as I do most films.
Rating: 5 / 5

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