Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My good friend William implored me to see director William Daniel’s study in dysfunction ‘Precious’ and also informed me, that in his opinion, Monique should dust off her mantle because she’s going to need some space for the Academy Award she’s about to receive. I had to inform William that I give absolutely no value to arbitrarily assigned awards because that’s not competition, that’s politics. My plan, as I have outlined before with me being a boxing and MMA aficionado would be to invite seven or eight participants, put the statue in a small room, close the door and whoever walks out would be the winner. The good thing for Monique is that based on my award distribution concept and placing the woman in a small room with say the likes of Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchette I got even money on Monique’s chances of walking out that room clutching that gold statuette.

Dateline Harlem 1987 where we are introduced to sixteen year old Clareece P. Jones who goes by the name of Precious (Gabourney ‘Gabby’ Sidibe). To say that Precious has a crap life would be one of the grossest understatements of all time. Precious is four grades behind, reads below a second grade level, has a two year old Downs Syndrome child and is pregnant with a second child and is routinely physically and emotionally abused by her mother Mary (Monique) when she’s not being sexually abused by her father who is the sire of her two children. Outstanding. Precious, who also suffers from the physical crimes of being grossly over weight and dark skinned, finds her only sanctuary from her hellish existence is when her mind takes her to a much better place where she is a star with nice clothes, the center of positive attention, has a mother that isn’t a raving abusive lunatic and she also has a light-skinned boyfriend who gives her much adoration.

But these respites are few and far between for Precious as her mother frequently brings her back to the tragic reality of her situation. Things start looking up a little for Precious when she transfers to an alternative school and enters a class taught by the oddly named Blu Rain (Paula Patton) who seems to be genuinely interested in Precious’ physical and emotional well being. Through this opportunity Precious is able to make some friends, she discovers that not everybody on the planet earth is cruel and inhuman as she makes the acquaintance of a gentle male nurse played by Lenny Kravitz who assisted in delivering her second child, and she also meets a concerned social worker played by Mariah Carey who probably isn’t yet ready for the story that Precious has to tell.

But despite these marked improvements in her life and the fact that she has managed to separate herself from her abusive mother, the horrors of the life of Precious Jones always find a way to bring themselves to the forefront.

There is something special about this movie in the sense that you will be hard pressed to find a movie with a subject as bleak and as depressing as the subject matter in this film, based on a novel by woman who calls herself Sapphire, but yet somehow, someway Lee Daniels has found a way to make this movie hopeful and at times even ‘fun’ to watch, if ‘fun’ is a word I can use in relation to this movie. This isn’t to say that Daniels makes light of situation that Precious is trapped in, good heavens no as her plight is deadly, deadly serious, but in a situation that for all intent and purposes appears to be completely hopeless, its just not presented as completely hopeless.

Another special element about ‘Precious’ is the uniformly strong performances delivered by actors who aren’t generally known their thespian abilities. Monique is a comedian, and a damn good one at that, but she sure wasn’t very funny in this movie. In fact with her portrayal as Mary, Monique has created one of the most chilling characters in the history of movies. But as bad as the character of Mary may have been, Monique still found a way to humanize her. She never became a caricature and while the characters behavior was deplorable, Monique never took her completely over the top. She got close a couple of times, but avoided making it all the way there. Lenny Kravitz, Paula Patton and the team of young talented actresses portraying Precious’ classmates gave the move its heart, Mariah Carey’s character of the social worker Mrs. Weiss gave the film a sense of innocence but Gabourney Sibide delivers the film its soul with her incredibly heart wrenching performance as the films title character.

‘Precious’ is a deeply moving, deeply affecting film with some wonderful performances that deftly avoids being a tragic film. Yes, Precious is a tragic character and it is tough to avoid feeling sorry for her at times and it is also difficult to avoid even feeling pity for her at other times but ultimately you root for her. I applaud Lee Daniels for being able to deliver his vision for this movie to screen so completely and so effectively.

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