I was cordially invited to attend the pre-screening of “Precious”, unfortunately due to the hectic HBCU Homecoming schedules, I wasn’t able to partake. Good news is I know a team of young black educated, opinionated, passionate women who were willing to take my place and provide a review for you. This is the first of two entries provided by a good friend, Nadine Graham.
Stay tuned for review #2
Director Lee Daniel (Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman) has captured an incredible blend of emotion, compassion, and reality (for some) within the movie Precious. The multi-layered flick has been the talk of film festivals nationwide since early this year. Even Oprah and Tyler Perry have offered to back it with their influential promotion squads.
Gabourey Sidibe, plays the lead role as Clareece “Precious” Jones, a sixteen-year-old whose life is heavy laden with adult issues. The movie is set in Harlem during the late 1980s, before the dynamic of welfare reform was introduced to the masses. The main character lives in a small, dreary apartment with her violently antagonistic mother Mary(excellently portrayed by comedienne Mo’Nique). Mary uses Precious and her child to dupe the welfare system, so she never has to work. In return, Precious is disparaged daily by her mother; she’s beaten and belittled. At school, she’s ignored, and essentially lost in the shuffle, barely literate.
Battling negativity at home that’s deeper than even she realizes, Precious still has the look of hope in her eyes and a sparkle in her spirit. In one scene her mother’s smacking her in the head with an iron skillet, and while conked out, Precious fantasizes that she’s a movie star. In other dream sequences though, the director tugs at the heartstrings of viewers: one scene shows Precious, a portly, dark-skinned girl with short dark brown hair, getting ready for school, and while looking in the mirror, her imagined reflection is a tall, thin, blonde girl with long, wavy hair.
The turning point in Precious’ story comes when she’s suspended from school upon revealing that she’s pregnant for the second time without finishing junior high. What her teachers don’t know is that she a victim of serial rape at the hands of her own father. She never tells them. She’s advised to go to an alternative school outside of her neighborhood, where she’s taught the basics of reading and writing by sweet Miss Blue Rain (played by Paula Patton). Her hard-edged classmates at the alternative school are all dealing with their own problems but they seem to help Precious discover herself along the way. There are humorous moments at her new school with her new girlfriends, and viewers notice that Precious is beginning to shine and flourish. When she goes home, she’s told that all of that learning, has her “uppity” and that the better option would be to “go down to the welfare office”.
A final moment of clarity is when Precious has her second child, a son, and she and her mother get into an extreme physical altercation, just as she arrives home from the hospital. From that point, Precious meets even more individuals who are in her corner; it’s interesting to see how and what she learns from all of them. Over the course of the movie, Precious opens up to her social worker (a surprising performance from Mariah Carey), and little by little the truth about her life and her struggles are uncovered. Heartwarming, gut wrenching, cringe-worthy, and sad, Precious is the movie to see this year.
– Nadine Graham