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 aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
Bryce Dallas Howard
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer's disease.
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
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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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I won't try to deny my slight bias while I was watching this movie. To be in a theater among many movie enthusiasts, and most importantly the director of the film (Lee Daniels) and the author of the novel (Sapphire) will most certainly have an effect on your movie going experience. But not enough of a bias to effect whether or not the film is any good.
Precious is the name of the protagonist, (played by Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe), a teenage girl who is one of the most harsh conditions upon our first meeting with her. She's pregnant for the second time to her own father's child, her mother (Monique) is an unstable and dangerously abusive woman, and she is unable to read and write. This is a terrible situation to be in, but Precious manages to live through it through her dreams, blocking out harsh memories with hopes of becoming a fashion model or a movie star. The story kicks off when Precious is invited to a special learning school, where the classroom is small and where she will be able to learn in a better environment.
From this description of the plot, the film sounds tried. I was concerned for a brief moment while watching that this would be another "Stand and Deliver" or "Freedom Writers". We've all heard and seen these "problem stories" of inter-city kids who go to the top. For one, although the film briefly uses these classroom dynamic scenes, enough of the film is so unrelated we realize that comparing this film to those isn't fair. Precious is about a girl, not about a student or a classroom.
Let me tell you up front: Precious isn't a problem movie (the kind of movie where things just get worse and worse, and then finally some solution is made). Despite how many obstacles are thrown at Precious, and believe me a whole lot are, the film is still entirely about who Precious is, and mostly, how she can raise her head high and keep going in all these loathsome situations. Director Lee Daniels (here I go with my bias of seeing it with the director) actually encouraged the audience to laugh, because there are a lot of humorous scenes, intertwined with some incredibly jarring ones. Unlike "Requiem for a Dream", which is such a depressing movie you are left with a bad taste in your mouth, Precious is actually a very positive film about how to stand through these trials of life. You will see scenes in this film that will irk you, but enough of the film is good-spirited and, dare I say, light, that leaving the film you will feel good about yourself, and with a positive outlook on your own life. It also makes one grateful for the fortunate situations we're all in, because I don't think anyone has it rougher than Precious in this film.
This isn't a Slumdog Millionaire rags-to-riches story. Because the film only deals with about a year of her life, we don't see Precious win the million dollars or get into college. Any of that would just be cheesy. Instead, we see her trying to learn to write, being a single parent, and getting out of potentially dangerous situations. It adds for a fuller and richer film that feels more heartfelt.
The directing is not some of the best ever, but it is of a high enough caliber that Lee Daniels deserves some praise this awards season. I think he will not have too much trouble getting a nomination. As for a win, I am not so sure (especially with my personal pick Kathryn Bigelow). My only complaint is some jerky hand-held for one or two scenes, but that's not enough to defer from the great things he does. The acting and the screenplay of this film are exactly the type of Oscar-winning pieces you can name. Monique as an abusive mother is downright scary for a long time, but soon she actually makes us empathetic toward such a monster. I have no doubt in her chances of getting a nomination, and as of now she is my pick for the win. As for Gabby Sidibe: she's very good, but it all depends on who the competition is.
The screenplay is brilliant, never feeling slow or rushed. The pacing of this film is steady enough that we're engrossed the entire time. Watch out for smaller roles by Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, both of whom appear briefly (without any make-up or nice clothing). So far, Precious is sweeping the festivals and is looking like it's on a road to Oscar glory, and well deserved. The film opens in NY and LA on November 6th, and will be in theaters everywhere by November 20th. Be sure to make a point of seeing this film.
My Rating: 10/10
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