"I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with real nice hair. And I want to be on the cover of a magazine. But first, I want to be on one of them BET videos. Mama said I can't dance. Plus she say who wanna see my big ass dance anyhow." Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe delivers a paramount performance as the abused, illiterate 16-year-old, Claireece Precious Jones. Molested and raped by her father from the age of three, Precious is pregnant - again. Raised in the projects of inner-city Harlem, Precious endures years of physical and emotional abuse from her sadistic, volatile mother, Mary (Mo'Nique). When her math teacher, Mr. Richer (Bill Sage), recommends her transfer to an alternative school, Precious is eager to prove that she is not the ignorant, ne're-do-well that her mother has entitled her. At her new school, Precious becomes a student of Ms. Blue Rain (Paula Patton), an implacable, but benevolent instructor of a diverse group of delinquent females. Under Ms. Rain's tutelage, Precious not only improves as a student, but also as a woman and mother with responsibilities that she is more than willing to undertake. Her dreams of independence and achievement are impeded, however, when Mary intends to force her back into the squalid and submissive lifestyle of which she has so long been a victim.
Precious is based on the 1996 award-winning novel Push, by Sapphire. The film adaptation has been in the works since 2007 and is Lee Daniel's second project as a director (Daniel's has been a producer on such films as Monster's Ball and The Woodsman). Gabourey Sidibe's powerful execution of the title character, Precious Jones, is a paradigm of acting at its finest. After the film's completion, Sidibe remarked that her acting experience was limited to minor roles as an indian and a pirate in a college production of Peter Pan. However, the scene in which she conveys a heart-breaking confession to her teacher and classmates will have viewers weeping for this unyielding and resilient heroine, an inspiration for young women of all backgrounds. Comedian and talk-show host, Mo'Nique, triumphs on screen with a phenomenal range as the sinister and mentally-afflicted Mary Jones, whose atrocious acts of violence and crude mentality will be difficult to digest for some viewers. Nevertheless, her performance is nothing short of monumental and sure to harness a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 2010 Academy Awards.
Paula Patton (Idlewild) leads an average supporting cast of honorable mentions as Blue Rain, Precious's instructor at the alternative school who gives her shelter after a climactic rampage that threatens the life of Precious's infant son, Abdul. Grammy-award winning artist, Mariah Carey, is indistinguishable in her best role yet as the pragmatic and sympathetic Ms. Weiss, a social worker whose emotional support allows Precious to divulge her secret as a victim of incest. Exceptional minor roles are those of Chyna Layne, Xosha Roquemore, and Angelic Zambrana as Rhonda, Jo Ann, and Consuelo, students of the alternative school whose seeming indifference masks an ambition to pursue a host of diverse and hopeful dreams.
Precious is a film that some viewers will find literally painfully to watch for its gritty material and stark presentation of emotional and sexual trauma. For those who can stomach both, there is a message that emphasizes the conviction of the soul, irrepressible in the face of adversity. Ultimately, a must-see film for audiences of all circumstances and sure to be an inspiration that is truly precious in every word.
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