There are three things you need to know about Precious before seeing it.
1) Oprah is behind it.
2) It will most likely win an Oscar (for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, or all three).
3) It’s probably the most important film you will see this year.
Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is a 16-year-old girl growing up in Harlem in 1987. She is raped by her father and physically and psychologically abused by her mother (Mo’Nique) on a regular basis. She’s also morbidly obese and doesn’t have any friends. Early on in the film she is kicked out of school because she’s pregnant with her second child by her father. Her first child Mongo, has Down’s Syndrome, and lives with her grandmother.
Precious is sent to an alternative school and we learn that she is illiterate. Her teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), helps her learn how to read and write. Her classmates, made up of a collection of troubled young women, all seem to support and like her and she gains them as friends.
After she has her second baby she is hospitalized for a few weeks. When she returns home with the infant her mother starts abusing her immediately, in one of the most shocking scenes in the film. In order to protect her baby, Precious leaves. She meets with a social worker (played by a barely recognizable Mariah Carey) about her situation, opening up to her and telling her the truth about the abuse and rape. She enters a home for young mothers and starts to get her life on track when even more bad news is presented to her.
This is far from a sugar-coated fairy tale with a happy ending. This is a sad, depressing and shocking film. Newcomer Sidibe gives one of the most honest performances of the year and Mo’Nique, known mainly for comedy roles, is a true stand-out. She made my skin crawl and put tears in my eyes from her nastiness. Even the smaller roles by Carey and Patton are moving and real.
Director Lee Daniels’s previous film, 2005′s Shadowboxer, didn’t really grab audiences or critics. Precious might be a fluke for him because of the source material, the gritty novel Push by Sapphire, or because of the backing of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry (yes, the Tyler Perry who stars in the Madea films). Whatever the case Daniels has made a masterpiece that will haunt the audience for days after watching it.
**** out of 5 stars