‘Precious’: an Intense Look at Social Issues

AnnaLinda Andersson

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” is an extremely intense and emotional film about how an inspiringly strong person can overcome the worst things possible.

The story is set in Harlem in 1987 where a 16-year-old obese and illiterate girl, named Precious, has been sexually abused by her father since early childhood, resulting in two pregnancies. If that was not enough, she is also both physically and emotionally abused by her horribly evil mother, played by Mo’Nique (“Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins,” 2008). Her mother, Mary, lives on welfare and never leaves her dirty apartment, and has no plans to do so either.

The only time she looks like a good mother and grandmother is when the social workers come to her apartment to check up on her.

Mary pretends that she is a good mother to her daughter and grandchild, simply to get more money than she would have if the social services knew that her grandchild actually lives with Precious’ grandmother and that she in fact abuses her daughter.

Precious, played by Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe in her first feature role, is in junior high. She has managed to get through school with excellent grades even though she can neither read nor write. But when her school principal finds out she is pregnant again, she gets kicked out.

The principal then recommends that she attend an alternative school. Although she doesn’t know what such a school is, she decides to try it out. This is just one step she takes in order to take control of her life.

Precious survives her gruesome reality by escaping to a fantasy version of what she envisions her life should and maybe one day will be. The audience also gets invited into Precious’ dreams: a place where she is a star and loved by everyone.

The film is directed by Lee Daniels (“Shadowboxer,” 2005) who has captured both the pain from a mother whose dreams have obviously been crushed and the anger she must have in order to take it out so viciously on her own daughter. One really gets up and personal with this grotesque person Mo’Nique plays.

The director has also captured the vivid mind of an innocent 16-year-old girl. The scenes where viewers are transported back and forth between Precious’ real life and her bright imaginary world, conveys the sadness, innocence and determination of this young woman.

The film is shot with different color schemes for each scene. The color choices conveyed on the screen truly enhance the emotions for the audience.

“Precious” was made into a screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher from the novel “Push” by Sapphire. Judging from the screenplay alone Fletcher deserves credit for writing a plausible script that attracts awareness to the awfulness some children experience. His use of language gives credibility to the uneducated characters without making them too sound dumb or incomprehensible.

The usually upbeat comedian Mo’Nique gives an impressive performance as the evil mother of Precious. She has completely transformed herself both physically and emotionally from her usual beautiful self to portray this horrible character, and deserves a lot of praise for the performance.

Sidibe, 26, plays the 16-year-old character with enough strength and variety of emotions that she manages to steal a bit of the heart of all the audience members.

Both of the two bigger supporting roles are played by famous musicians. Mariah Carey gives a credible performance as Precious’ social worker, Mrs. Weiss, and Lenny Kravitz is very suitable in the role as the calm nurse, John, who takes Precious under his wing and becomes a bit like the father she never had.

The film can be explained as a real life horror film that shows the reality of what poverty and lack of education can lead to.
Hopefully, though, this will not scare viewers away from going to see it, for it is a really good film.

“Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” has wonderful acting and a storyline that will take the audience on an emotional roller coaster which other recent films have failed to do.

This is a film to been seen, not only for the visionary work and acting in it, but because it deals with important issues that need awareness. It touches on issues of incest, rape, obesity, poverty and illiteracy among others and while it might not be a movie for the sensitive, most people who see it will be grateful they do.

The film is 105 minutes long and is rated R.