Clareece “Precious” Jones is an overweight, illiterate African-American teen in Harlem. Just as she’s about to give birth to her second child, Jones is accepted into an alternative school where a teacher helps her find a new path in her life.
Genres: Drama, Adaptation and Teen; Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.; Release Date: November 6th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language.
Starring: Mo’Nique , Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Gabourey Sidibe, Sherri Shepherd
Directed by: Lee Daniels
We watched this movie on DVD Friday night after seeing Alice in Wonderland and having a quick dinner. Frankly, I wasn’t sure I was up for watching this movie, as I knew it was a very dark tale. To my surprise, this movie was neither as painful nor depressing as the subject matter would imply. In fact, director Lee Daniels’ treatment alternates so fluently between realism, social uplift, and 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 makes the film.
We’re now all pretty familiar with the story of Gabourey Sidibe, an untrained actress, cast in the title role. She is able to elicit empathy by giving herself completely to the character, and when Precious breaks down from the weight of yet another seemingly insurmountable development, Sidibe gives the scene a halting honesty. She was definitely deserving of her Oscar nomination. Paula Patton gets to play the Sidney Poitier role of the elegantly transformative teacher, interestingly named Blu Rain, but she gives the too-good-to-be-true character a real sense of passion. As Mrs. Weiss, Mariah Carey brings an audacious toughness to her smallish but pivotal role.
And I see why Mo’Nique got her Oscar. She provides the film a perfect performance. I don’t know where she pulled up those emotions, 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.
The cinematography captures perfectly the dark grittiness of the home and street life the author and screenwriter wanted to portray. Each scene managed to pull me more and more into the story, and you can’t help but start to root for Precious and the others in her class who come to give her more of a family than she’s had at home.
It’s still not a fun film to watch, but it’s worth watching to see real struggles portrayed in such an authentic story by excellent actors who nail their parts.