Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire turns a heavy situation into an artistic inspiration. As the unnecessary subtitle suggests, Precious is based on the deeply personal 1996 novel Push by Sapphire. Director Lee Daniels saw its potential and so did its producers Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. In 2009, Precious became a rare predominantly black film that received significant Academy Awards attention. I’ve wanted to see Precious for years, but I thought its heavy subject matter would make it a difficult watch. So I waited until I was more ready. Precious is tough to watch at times, but it’s a lot more uplifting than I was expecting.
Claireece “Precious” Jones is an obese teenager with dark black skin. Such an uncommon character led to the casting of first time actress Gabourey Sidibe. Her raw Oscar nominated performance was perfect for a brutally honest movie. Precious can’t read or write, has image issues, lives in an abusive household, and is pregnant with her own father’s second child. More uncomfortable moments of violence or incest are filtered through Precious’ hopeful inner fantasies. Harlem is a rough neighborhood given an almost sepia color palette. The most complex character is Precious’ horrible mother who abuses her and makes her collect welfare checks.
Comedian Mo’Nique goes against type with an unpredictable Best Supporting Actress winning performance. She goes from seemingly caring to violent in an instant. Other unexpected performances include Lenny Kravitz as a genuinely kind nurse and Mariah Carey as no-nonsense social worker Ms. Weiss. A far cry from her Glitter days. Precious finds hope for a better life when she’s sent to an alternative school. Paula Patton is her teacher Ms. Rain who actually cares enough to help. Her class is another special support system, but reality sets in when she returns to her mother. We learn so many conflicting things about her near the end, but the ultimate triumph is Precious leaving forever with her children. Precious brings hope to the hopeless.