In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
Richard E. Grant
It's Harlem 1987. Sixteen year old Claireece Jones - who goes by her middle name Precious - is an illiterate, overweight black girl. She is pregnant with her second child, both children fathered by her biological father, who has continually raped her since she was a child, but who she doesn't see otherwise. Her infant daughter, Mongo - such named since she has Down Syndrome - lives with Precious' grandmother. Precious lives with her mother Mary, who abuses Precious both physically and emotionally. Mary does nothing but smoke, watch television and collect welfare through fraud (as she doesn't ever look for a job) and believes that education does nothing for Precious, who she would rather also collect welfare if only to bring money into the household. To escape her life, Precious often daydreams of herself in glamorous situations. Because of her current pregnancy, Precious' principal transfers her into an alternative school. In dealing with the school's sympathetic teacher Miss Blu Rain... Written by
During the field trip, an image of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protest is visible. This happened several years after the movie, which is set in 1987. See more »
Clareece 'Precious' Jones:
My name is Clareece "Precious" Jones. I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with real nice hair. And I wanna be on the cover of a magazine. But first I wanna be in one of them BET videos. Momma said I can't dance. Plus, she said who wants to see my big ass dancing, anyhow?
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A fine film. An American urban working class drama, it manages to steer clear of almost every possible idiomatic pothole created by predecessors charging blithely down the same street. It seems real - only the controlled framing tells you that it's not a documentary to begin with - it's often funny, and has wonderfully placed surreal day-dream sequences (I wasn't a fan of these per se, but I liked how they were used). The Dangerous Minds/Freedom Writers school of contrived classroom turnaround is completely avoided (with one notable exception). The final set piece is one of the most raw, emotionally bruising and uplifting things I've seen in a cinema for a very long time; everyone was crying.
At the centre is (worthy Oscar tip) Gabby Sidibe as the eponymous Clareece Precious Jones. The fact that her middle name is not some sort of irony lever is a testament not only to Lee Daniels but also to her iron performance. It's also impressive that the satellite cast act with the character she is digging out (yes, even Mariah Carey, an amazing metamorphosis). It would be so simple and safe for everyone to treat Clareece as the fat girl whose acts garner pity and pathos. That is not this film, not by a very long way.
The film achieves so much. It's relentlessly warm and human - a middle- class audience, such as the one I was in at the 53rd London Film Festival, doesn't need to nod sagely and side with the protagonists as abstract figures representing a life of alternative fortune. There's too much to enjoy and synchronise with. Consequently, when the bad things happen they are spasm-in-the-auditorium shocking. Brilliant. 8/10
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