21 November 2009

Review: "Precious"

Precious (or Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire) is maybe the most buzzed about movie in recent memory. After first premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Oprah Winfrey was supposedly so moved by the film that she has become one of the film's producers. Usually anything with Oprah's name attached to it would cause me to vomit. Thankfully, she had nothing to do with the making of the film and has only aided in its distribution. Performances by Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe were heavily lauded. Precious was then screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was only behind Up In The Air in terms of buzz. It has been said that it is the only film to have won the Jury Prize at Sundance and the Audience Award in Toronto. It is the second film directed by Lee Daniels, who may be most well known for producing Monster's Ball (the film which won Halle Berry the Oscar for Best Actress). Armed with friends and Kleenex, I went to see Precious expecting to feel emotionally ruined when it was over. It is a special film with a beautiful message of hope.

Claireece 'Precious' Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is an obsese, sixteen year old girl living in Harlem. It is 1987 and she is pregnant with her second child, the result of rape by her own father. Her mother Mary (Mo'Nique) is physically, verbally and emotionally abusive, and rarely leaves the apartment, she depends on her welfare cheque for Precious and her special needs granddaughter (who lives with Precious' grandmother). When the principal at school discovers Precious is pregnant, she advises Precious to start attending an alternative school. Precious is basically illiterate (a fact highlighted in the opening credits of the film) and she is encouraged by her new teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), to write everyday. Precious has become so introverted and shy that she believes she has nothing to offer the world and that no one loves her, but she has made the first step in changing her future.

I had expected Precious to be so emotionally draining that I would feel emotionally abused when it finished. The film has such a positive message of hope that I could not help but smile when it was over. The film has so many moments that are laugh out loud funny, which help keep the audience focused. There are scenes that are harrowing, but Daniels resists the urge to show too much. The song I Can See in Colour by Mary J Blige wonderfully expresses the theme of hope in the film. Comedienne Mo'Nique goes to such a dangerous and dark place to create the character of Mary that every single scene of hers had me on edge. Ultimately, the film belongs to Gabourey Sidibe, who leads us on an emotional voyage of Precious' growth and self-esteem.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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