Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Andrew Dunn
WRITER: Geoffrey S. Fletcher
MUSIC: Mario Grigorov
Gabourey Sidibe plays the title character of Claireece “Precious” Jones, an obese, illiterate 16-year-old girl who has a child with a second one on the way. Precious struggles through school while trying to take care of her very abusive mother (Mo’Nique), a woman who only cares about her welfare checks. Meanwhile, Precious’ grandmother takes care of her first child who happens to have Down Syndrome.
Precious fights all of this by escaping into a world of imagination. When her mother is being abusive or someone is making fun of her, it is through this world of fantasy that she survives.
This all begins to change one day when Precious is suspended from school by her junior high school principle. The principle, Mrs. Lichtenstein, arranges to have her attend an alternative school in an attempt to help Precious. In the end, this is a film about hope. Not for some material gain or escaping the environment in which Precious exist, but for hope in one’s self.
Inspirational films of the past have always had a tendency to tell the story from the perspective of the one doing the inspiring be it a teacher or a coach. It was refreshing to see a film focus on one of the troubled youths instead and really tell their story. Precious is not just a character in a story, she embodies that of all kids who live a rough existence and are looking for a way out. She puts a face to people who are otherwise ignored.
However, what makes this film truly work is Sidibe. She is not just an actress playing the role of Precious, she is Precious. Never once does the audience question her or feel that she is out of place. This is one of those rare performances in film that is utterly flawless. Sidibe deserves the Best Actress award and it would be a shame if the Academy ignored her next year.
Also, if anyone ever deserved the Best Supporting Actress award next year, it would have to be Mo’Nique as the absolutely vile and disgusting mother. Like Sidibe, the stand-up comic that audiences are used to seeing is completely gone and only mother Mary remains. Mo’Nique plays a mother that makes “Mommie Dearest’s” Joan Crawford look like a saint by comparison.
Audiences will definitely be impressed when they see Mo’Nique perform one of the best monologues ever written near the end of the film and they, along with Precious, truly learn who this character is.
The other supporting roles are near flawless, as well. Paula Patton is a great joy to watch as Precious’ new teacher, Ms. Rain. Patton chooses to play Ms. Rain as a woman who sees potential in Precious and her other students. However, she also knows at the same time that she has to sometimes push the children into doing what they have to do in order to learn.
In the meantime, director Lee Daniels made a bold choice in casting Mariah Carey as Mrs. Weiss, Precious’ social worker. Carey chooses to not wear any make-up for the role and also plays Mrs. Weiss as a woman who does not really seem to care that much for Precious. But like the other characters, she slowly changes as the film progresses. Carey is not on screen for long, but when she is, she doesn’t mess around and proves that Daniels knew what he was doing when he cast her.
In the end, “Precious” turns out to be one of the most realistic and thought provoking inspirational films to come around in a long time. Like Sidibe with the Best Actress award, it would be a shame if the Academy chose to ignore this film as a Best Picture contestant. It would also be a shame for precious girls everywhere if audiences also chose to ignore the power this film truly holds.