Originally Reviewed – 2/8/2010
Winner of a few Grand Jury Awards at Sundance and another at Toronto, Precious is the intensely emotional story of an overweight and illiterate 16 year old named Precious who suffers insults, molestation and abuse while living in the mean streets of 1980’s Harlem. And that’s all from her family.
While the premise has all the makings of a bad Lifetime movie, director Lee Daniels has directed a wonderfully balanced film that never sugarcoats the pain Precious suffers yet gives her many opportunities to dream, to laugh and to rebuild her crumbling life. It’s this tricky balance of melodrama, genuine comedy and moments of hope that allow the viewer to stomach all the intense moments.
On the acting front, both leads do an excellent job with first timer Gabby Sidibe playing the titular part and comedienne Monique playing her abusive mother. While Gabby does a great job in portraying Precious, Monique steals the show playing a varied and interesting character that is despicable and at the same time pitiable. Her performance should get her some looks for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar come February and I wouldn’t be surprised if she walks away with it. Amazing for someone who’s known more for her stand up than her acting chops. The relationship between the two is intense with many moments that will make you gasp and is not for the faint of heart. Their relationship reminds me a bit of Grey Garden in their codependency, only where Big and Little Edith quibble about cats, Precious and her mom are throwing frying pans.
The supporting cast does a fine job of coloring the world Precious lives in and is headlined by Mariah Carrey as a tough social worker and Paula Patton in an excellent turn as Ms. Rain, a teacher who takes a special interest in Precious. The other characters do a nice job, with the exception of Lenny Kravitz as the male nurse whose screen time is wooden and seems forced.
The direction of the film is also fantastic with Daniels offering ample time for fantasy, daydreams and light hearted moments to go with the despair. The editing of the film is also noteworthy as Daniels fills the film with quick, jagged cuts that keep the film looking fresh and interesting. The editing style also keeps the viewer on their toes, further adding to the overall feeling of tension. For those of you who may be avoiding this film because of the “depressing” nature of the subject matter, be consoled in that there is enough balance here to keep things moving.
When it’s all said and done, Precious is an excellent film that shows a woman in an almost unthinkable situation and how she tries to claw her way out of it. This film is almost a lock for a Best Picture nomination and should not be missed if you enjoy intense real life dramas. Highly recommended.
Score – 90%