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.
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In Harlem, 1987. Sixteen year old Claireece Jones - who goes by her middle name Precious - is illiterate and overweight. 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, Precious ...Written by
Yellow New Jersey license plates that weren't used until the 90s. 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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Gabourey Sibide looks and sounds a lot like the late Hattie McDaniel; if a biopic about McDaniel is ever made, Sibide should star. Starting from this superficiality, it is clear that the character Sibide plays, an abused, obese late- 20th-century Harlem teenager three or four generations down the line from the McDaniels era, seems to embody a sadly ironic regression in the status of black women in America. Precious's very existence and her debased environment speak to a grave social disease that continues to poison our civilization – the creation and perpetuation of a dependent underclass. At one point Precious compares her self image to "black grease that needs to be wiped away." The horror of it all is that as dreadful as Precious's situation is, she is actually better off than many others in similar straits. She is, despite obesity, strong and healthy, drug free and has a beautiful smile. There are plenty of underclass females much closer to an early grave and utter hopelessness than she.
The story takes us on the journey of this monstrously mistreated young female from near destruction at the hands of her violent, hyper-narcissistic mother (Mo'Nique) and her rapist father (who has impregnated her twice by age 16) to a rescue with the help of a frayed but still somewhat viable network of dedicated social workers who help her gain literacy and independence from her wicked elders.
Interspersed with the depressing realities of ghetto life is the constant flow of Precious's glamorous daydreams, the little fires generated by her undying spark of life, her only opening toward beauty and light, imagining herself wrapped in beautiful gowns, doted on by handsome men, cheered by adoring crowds on the red carpet; wealth, fame, as she knows them from the pop culture that is her only mental nourishment. For her mother and for herself, life is an endless round of TV–food–arguments-TV–food-arguments. In their dark and dingy apartment, practically the only illumination is from the TV screen.
Mo'Nique's performance is revelatory on multiple levels, down to the bone of the human condition and certainly up to the highest screen standards. It is bravura work. Sibide's performance is technically masterful but much of her effectiveness comes from her imposing physical presence; this is not meant to detract one iota from her acting skills – it is just a fact. The excellent supporting performances include a pleasing turn from singer Mariah Carey as a down-to-earth social worker with a playful personality; it's an inventive characterization. But the whole cast excels and they should be honored for great ensemble work, especially the young ladies in the special education classroom.
Flaws? The pacing seems to slow down unnecessarily toward the end and Precious's educational progression seems a bit confused and not completely fleshed out, but this is minor stuff. This is a very inspired work of art by someone with a fresh vision. It is not preaching morals or slogans, just revealing truth.
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