Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Tonight I screened Precious, starring Gabourey Sidibe and Mo' Nique.

Clareece (Sidibe) is a 16-year-old student living in Harlem who is known as "Precious" to her family and teachers.

She does well in school though she can't read or write, and comes home every night to cook and take care of her physically and verbally abusive mother Mary (Mo'Nique), who is a welfare recipient that likes to watch game shows.

Clareece's principal expels her when she learns she is pregnant with her second child and arranges for her to enroll at a nearby alternative school. What the school administration doesn't realize is that the child, like Clareece's toddler-age daughter, is the product of rape. By her father.

Precious is overweight, illiterate, poor and ridiculed, but something about her spirit enables her to seek a better future for herself. Despite the protest of her mother (who feels she should also go on welfare), she applies herself at the alternative school, learning to read and write. Her teacher takes a special interest in her and builds the first healthy relationship she's probably ever had.

A counselor (played by a surprisingly good Mariah Carey) is also assigned to her, and the truth about her family life begins to unfold, which serves as a healing force in the progress of Precious.

Soon she's made friends at school, given birth to a baby in a hospital and vows to make a better life for herself and her son.

Then life interferes and throws another enormous trauma her way.

At this point in the film, after watching a slew of amazing performances, I wondered how much more the writer could put on the actors. If Precious were a real human being, there is very little chance she could've survived everything she was forced to endure without losing her mind.

But the sad thing is, there are a lot of Precious teens out there. Probably many who have suffered similar grievances and come out of it bearing only hidden scars.

The film does a good job of getting to the core of each of our main characters and also making them real enough to worry about. Truly, it felt more like a call to action than a means of entertainment.

But sometimes, that's okay.



StevenMilwaukee said...

I caught this at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Really, really tough to watch. I spent the whole time hoping it wasn't a true story....although I'm sure it could have been. I'm going to go see Paranormal Activity this weekend, hoping it is scary in a different way.

James Guilford said...

After seeing an advance screening of Daniels' "Precious" two weeks ago, I am still moved. By far, the most outstanding performance is Mo’Nique as Mary, Precious’ mother. From her utterance of her first insult to Precious, the audience knows that comedian Mo’Nique has been inhabited by a actress of Meryl Streep caliber. Monique’s delivery of Mary is so thoroughly convincing that it is an injustice to call her execution a performance. I'd warn viewer that the movie is difficult to finish. On several occasions, I considered walking out. The cinematic tragedy of Precious' life both beautiful and suffocating.

- James Guilford