Adapted from the novel by "Sapphire" "Precious" is a simple movie it is the story of Claireece P. Jones as she escapes her inhumane life. But whilst simple it is incredibly powerful and I shall say now and probably again that this is a movie which words cannot do justice to because it is the experience of watching it and the connections you make which make it so staggering. But having said that there are reasons why this movie is so powerful and it starts with the story which when combined with the performances and direction make this a very real, disturbing, emotional and touching movie which got a lot of praise and deserved all the praise it got.
Claireece P. Jones or Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) as she prefers to be known is an overweight illiterate 16 year old living in Harlem. Her mum verbally and physically abuses and her dad, who she rarely sees is the father of her son and the reason she is pregnant again. Her tough life is made harder by the fact she is suspended from school but it leads her to meet Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) who teaches at the alternative school she is sent to and who takes an interest in Precious helping her to read and being there in difficult times.
There are a lot of movies which try to show the hard life of a teenager growing up in Harlem but to be frank all those I have watched seem tame in comparison to what you witness in "Precious". This is a movie which doesn't hold back even when delivering the most disturbing of scenes be it the raping that Precious is victim to thanks to her father or the constant stream of physical and verbal abuse dished out by her mother. It is unsettling; no it is uncomfortable to watch but makes you immediately connect to this 16 year old girl who somehow thanks to her dreams keeps on going.
That is basically the first third of the movie as it establishes the inhumane life which Precious leads, blamed by her mother for her father leaving and treated no better than an animal for just being. But when this culminates in Precious being suspended from normal school for being pregnant again it is the start of the turn around. Now I am not going to go into details other than to say that whilst we witness Precious start to bloom as she gets the teaching and attention she needs this isn't some story which builds to a cheesy inspirational happy ever after ending, which you have to say is how other movies which deal with tough childhoods seem in comparison.
Having said that I will say one thing, the raw honesty, the reality and the power of the story is one of the reasons why "Precious" is such a brilliant movie. But at the same time it is also how director Lee Daniels brings the story to life doing it in such a way that not only do we connect with Precious but are hanging on every word of her heartbreaking story. In a scene where she speaks to welfare officer Ms. Weiss and let's slip that her children are down to her father we are shocked, hurt, yet elated she told someone and taken through so many other feelings and it is this, the way it draws us in to be up close to the drama that makes it so powerful.
But whilst the story and direction are 2 of the reasons why it is so amazing it is also the performances and from someone making their movie debut Gabourey Sidibe is outstanding. It seems strange to say this but when we see Precious in class, silent looking moody there is still feeling coming across in that face be it fear or anger and when combined with Sidibe's gentle voice as we hear her inner thoughts via a narration you feel like you know her and more importantly want to help. Even in what are at times quite strange dream sequences be it a dancing scene or film star scene you still feel that connection because you feel the joy of the escape that she feels in these moments where she transcends her real life.
It is not just Sidibe's performance which is outstanding and to be honest there is not a bad performance in the movie but there are two which stand out as much as Sidibe's. Mo'Nique's tough performance as Precious's abusive mother Mary is something which to be honest is out of this world. In any other movie the verbally and physically abusive trashy mother would be a cliche but with every venomous word which leaves her mouth you believe there is real hatred their. And without giving anything away the final scene where she comes face to face with Precious again is so emotional that it is impossible not to cry.
That leads me to the other performance which is from Mariah Carey as welfare officer Ms. Weiss. Maybe because seeing Carey looking distinctly unglamorous skews your opinion but her simple but believable performance is as touching as anything else in the movie. And again in that scene where Mary and Precious meet in her office the look of horror and hurt on her face is as much a reason why that scene is so powerful as anything else.
What this all boils down to is that "Precious" is a seriously special movie one which is unsettling, seriously hard hitting and very disturbing but it is also touching and very emotional. As I mentioned early on words cannot do justice to how powerful this movie is and as such even if it is something you would not generally watch I recommend watching it because it would take a cold heart not to connect and feel the power of this story.