I admit, I was scared of seeing this, knowing that having to say “I didn’t think it was that good” would probably be a hard sell for a movie that’s already gathered so much award buzz and praise they may as well just hand over the Oscars now. But hey, guess what? I liked it. Precious really IS that good.
Considering most people know this is a movie about an abused, overweight, African American teen living in Harlem, and thus it’s going to be depressing, I’m sure that most people will also want to skip it. I’m here to tell you – don’t. Don’t miss this if you’re thinking it will be too much for you to handle. Because I bet you can handle it, and I bet it will open your eyes (even more than you think) to things that go on in the world and how people manage to harness incredible strength and love in order to get through them.
Alternating between bleak reality and fantasy dream sequences, the film introduces us to Claireece “Precious” Jones. Precious is illiterate, constantly teased by her peers, pregnant for the second time by her drug-addicted father (!!!), and abused daily by a mother who cheats the welfare system by pretending the first grandchild lives with them. In fact, the welfare system seems to be all Mrs. Mary Jones (Mo’Nique) is interested in, insisting that Precious should just give up on school and go on down to the welfare office to get money for the family instead. Luckily (???), Precious is booted out of school and sent to the alternative “Each One, Teach One” program, where she gets support from others just when she needs it most.
It’s no secret that newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe is amazing as Precious. Even though they show you some pretty awful abuse right up front, I didn’t lose my cool until she made it to the program and introduced herself to her classmates. As Precious, Sidibe has an uncanny ability to draw you into her world and make you love her instantly, without having to say anything. Mo’Nique is equally amazing as Mary, taking jealousy to the extreme and eventually divulging a psyche so messed up you almost feel sorry for her. Ditto on Lenny Kravitz as Nurse John and Paula Patton as the unfortunately named inspirational teacher, Blu Rain. Much has also been made of Mariah Carey’s no glam Ms. Weiss, and while I applaud her for facing the camera exposed, it’s worth noting she did a fine job acting too. I can honestly say that this is the one and only time Ms. Carey has ever made me cry.
Hollywood could have done a very typical thing with this film – they could have changed the story so it was less heavy. They could have cast a beautiful, thin star and tried to make her look like she’d fit the part. They could have stuffed the cast with glamorous cameos. In other words, they could have totally RUINED it, but they didn’t. They went ahead and let Director Lee Daniels make exactly the movie he wanted to make: a brutally believable story that could be happening to any girl right now, with an unknown actress who blows right off the screen and makes you feel everything she is. Most importantly, everyone made a movie about real people that really makes you think—which is rare in an age of lovesick vampires, shiny robots and end-of-the-world disasters.
Usually when a movie is being touted as a sure-fire Oscar winner, I’m not thrilled, but this time I think the buzz is right on. I’ll be happy to cheer when the nominations are announced because I know that ultimately it means more people will eventually see this, and I really think it needs to be seen.