Hello there Oscar. It’s me…”Precious”
I love this time of the season. Great films are released in conjunction with the years end. Not only that, an aroma of Oscar gold is slowly wafting into every studio exec office and boy does it smell satisfying. So its only fitting that “Precious,” a film of staggering emotional magnitude with Oscar written all over it, would come out right around now with the Academy Awards drawing near.
Director Lee Daniels traverses tough terrain in “Precious,” based from the poet Sapphire’s novel, amidst the backdrop of late 80s Harlem during the crack epidemic. These are the circumstances Clareece “Precious” Jones (unknown Gabourey Sidibe) lives in. Her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique) is crack-addled, unemployed, and dependent on Precious for welfare checks.
Precious is severely overweight, illiterate, and abused verbally and physically by both parents. She’s already had a baby at the age of 16 and is expecting another.
Due to this untimely second impregnation by the person who did it the first time–a what the hell discovery–she is suspended from public school and sent to an alternative one. At her new school, Precious gains an unfamiliar sense of confidence with an encouraging student body and patient teacher named Miss Rain (a subtle, but brilliant Paula Patton.)
Unlike her home life where insults, such as “I should have had you aborted, Precious” are fired her way like shotgun pellets, Precious dreams of another life away from the tyrannical reign of her mother. In comical and lively flashbacks, the only sequences which distract from the incomparable sadness of Precious’s life, we see her play with thoughts of celebrity. These moments transform Precious into our story’s heroine where we not only want her to succeed, but get out of her situation alive.
Mariah Carey shows up as a social worker named Mrs. Weiss, the benefactor of Precious’s welfare checks, who is almost unrecognizable with the pounds of makeup removed from her face. She’s surprisingly good for someone who’s only previous film experience is primarily reserved to “Glitter” and the notoriously bad performance in it.
Precious divulges information about the abuse at home to Mrs. Weiss, which leads to a resonating confrontational scene where some of the most exceptional acting done on screen this year happens between Carey, Sidibe, and Mo’Nique.
After so many dejecting events happen to Precious throughout the course of this movie, Precious’s self-realization of living for herself and children uplifts “Precious” into an inspirational tale of a woman overcoming her tortured surroundings.
The performance by Gabourey Sidibe is one to talk about for years. She has had no previous acting experience and probably would have become a psychologist if it weren’t for this movie. I would say I couldn’t imagine anyone more perfect for a role, but alas, she’s never had any prior roles and yet conquers the role of Precious with such effective realism you would think she was a virtuoso of the acting craft.
As the Hitler of all she-devils, Mo’Nique is fearless under the vicious facade of Mary, projecting all the spite and disillusion of a truly unhinged character. Why Mary is so cruel to Precious surfaces at various points, but giving them away would spoil the power of Mo’Nique’s more than Oscar deserving performance.
Lee Daniels doesn’t make it so “Precious” gets lathered in sap nor become an overly sentimental corn-fest; however “Precious” does make sure you stay on the precipice of tears. Daniels is known for eclectic casting, and demonstrated in “Precious,” who would have ever thought Mariah Carey, Mo’Nique (the queen of horrible B comedies), and Lenny Kravitz–a friendly male nurse to Precious–had real acting chops? Daniels ensemble of players unexpectedly wowed me and made this film not only one of the best this year, but a showpiece of magnificent acting.