Since the opening night of Precious this past Monday, its buzz has grown into a steady, unavoidable pulse. I was not quite sure what to expect from a film backed by Oprah and Tyler Perry. I was hoping for the best, but was wary of a potential overdose of drama which could result in an unrealistic story. I braced myself to be utterly depressed. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised, and even walked out of the theatre with a spring in my step. The film manages to be just dramatic enough to be poignant, but yet hopeful enough to be inspiring.
The film is directed by Lee Daniels and is based on the book Push, by Sapphire. It boasts an incredible cast, with stellar performances by Mo’nique and Paula Patton, as well as newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. The film takes place in 1987 in Harlem. It is the story of a dark-skinned, illiterate, and overweight young black girl named Claireece “Precious” Jones, who happens to be pregnant for the second time. Mo’nique gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the mother. Despite submitting Precious to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, the film explores the mother as both victim and perpetrator in an abusive cycle.
Before the release of the film, there had been fears that a story about a dark-skinned, overweight black girl would further promote stereotypes about the African American community. An article in The Grio, an online forum for the black community, asks “Does Precious movie stereotype big black women?” Moreover, Latoya Peterson in Jezebel critiques the reaction of the press’s assessment of Precious as seemingly too raw and horrific to be real. Yet according to the writers, director, and producers, the story is meant to illuminate and, in turn, effectively deal with issues that still exist within sectors of the black community. Although the character Precious faces any number of heart-wrenching obstacles in her life, the film still promotes an underlying sense of hope.
We watch as Precious learns to love and to be loved. Letter by letter, her teacher, played by Paula Patton, gives the gift of self-confidence by teaching her how to express her inner thoughts in writing. The director, Lee Daniels, plucks us out of the most dramatic moments by handing us little gems of both comedy and dream sequences. Amongst all the tragedy, Precious manages to reach the light at the end of her bleak tunnel of childhood. She never achieves her dream to be a movie star, but she does manage to live her life without the threat of abuse, surrounded by people who truly care about her.
I highly suggest the film Precious. I left the theatre having run the emotional gamut. By the end, I was a mess of concurrent tears and laughter. The journey, though painful at times, is well worth it.