Precious (Lee Daniels, 2009): USA

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the Riviera Theater in Santa Barbara.

If you’ve ever suffered from self-pity, you need to watch the film PreciousIt is a simple but profound tale of one illiterate girl’s journey from horrific childhood into responsible adulthood.

Gabby Sidibe plays Claireece Precious Jones, an overweight and pregnant 16 year old teenage mother, that hasn’t graduated out of Jr. High School yet.  Her reading and writing skills are below literacy level and she is the victim of sexual abuse by both her father and mother, as well as verbal and physical abuse.

When the school principal finds out that Precious is pregnant with her second child, she expels Precious and recommends her for an alternative school.  As Precious considers the alternative school, her mother Mary (portrayed by comedian Mo’Nique),  shoots the idea down, telling her she needs to get her butt down to the welfare office and file for the second unborn child.

Precious is constantly told how stupid she is and that she will never amount to anything.  While her miserable life presumes, Precious escapes into a fantastic world of make-believe, where she is beautiful, desired, and appreciated.

Although this story is simple enough in format, Lee Daniels magically moves the audience from Precious’ oppressive reality to splashy, extravagant daydreaming in the wink of an eye, and it works!  It is really something to behold; after Mary spews vial, humiliating words at her, Precious retreats into her photo album, and suddenly a photo of her mother comes to life speaking encouraging, loving words to her.

Not only is Sidibe absolutely brilliant as Precious – taking her character from the torment, on to the other side of hope, but all the actors are perfectly cast and do a supreme job, down to the bit part given to Mariah Carey as Precious’ case worker, who brings a real humanity to her role as Mrs. Weiss.

Everything great you’ve heard or read about the film Precious is absolutely 100% true.

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