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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)


Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is rich. Life is....Precious.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Some movies make you really examine what particular elements make a good movie. It’s a subjective term, this idea of “good,” but is it inherently necessary for a film to be enjoyable for it to be considered “good”? Entertaining? Widely appealing? If that’s true, it’s difficult to call this a good movie—it’s hard to watch, you won’t want to see it again, and it’s not, in any traditional sense, entertaining. But it is good, and I’ll bet right now that it gets in on that expanded list of Oscar nods for Best Picture—though it won’t win.

Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is 16 years old, pregnant with her second child by her father, illiterate, and a victim of constant abuse by her chain-smoking, welfare-collecting mother (Mo’Nique). Until now, her only means of escape from the constant rape, abuse, and ridicule has been the extravagant fantasies she conjures up in her mind, but when she is given the opportunity to attend an Alternative School and is able to finally find people to fight for her, Precious begins to be able to fight for herself, and for her children.

This movie personifies hype, mainly because Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry both attached themselves to it after it was already out. Which is good, as it gives a boost to a film that probably wouldn’t have gotten much notice otherwise, no matter how amazing the performances. And there is some crazy acting going on—who knew that all you had to do to make Mariah Carey a real actress was take away her makeup and give her brown hair? Really, though, the film belongs to Mo’Nique and Sidibe—Sidibe IS Precious, and Mo’Nique, well, she can’t really ever be seen as simply a comic actress anymore. There’s a scene, and you’ll know it when you see it, when Precious first comes home from giving birth to her son—as a diehard horror fan, this scene may very well be the most frightening thing I’ve seen in a while. The cast makes the movie, though, because really, the film itself has issues. At times, it seems as if some of the abuse scenes are done for shock value rather than allowing a more organic progression; also, Precious’s transition after first attending the Alternative School seems forced and fast—it may not have been, but edited together as it is, we see little of her opening up to her new teacher. Also, we see her meet her welfare worker (Carey), and then, somehow, they have had a year-long relationship. It seems as if, given the heavy material of the novel, director Lee Daniels wanted to make sure we got exactly how horrific it was—but in doing so, even with superb actresses giving life-changing performances, there’s a balance missing that could’ve elevated this to more than an abuse survival film.

It's Got: Amazing performances, Mariah Carey with no makeup, more humor than you'd think

It Needs: Better dream sequences, editing


Hard to watch, yet somehow still worth it, this one is set apart by performances from its actresses that are like a study in first-class acting.