Wow. After all the hype this award winning film has arrived on DVD and it leaves as much of an imprint on the small screen as it did on the big screen. Many will have seen it already but even so; it’s worth watching again as the excellent attention to detail by Director Lee Daniels means that the film can only be reborn with each view.
The film deals with cycles of birth and rebirth as the butterfly imagery on the DVD cover would suggest. Gabourey Sidibe shines in her debut in her role, as Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones though she plays a sixteen-year-old whose life could not be more downtrodden.
Abused by her father, with one child and another on the way, both the result of the incestuous relationship, she is illiterate. But getting kicked out of school is the light at the start of the tunnel for an alternative education and an alternative life. In this tumultuous journey through a period in her life, the audience feels every bump along the way in 1980’s Harlem.
You are drawn in by Daniels’ direction. The narration and documentary feel enhance the gritty nature – a raw approach for a story that is only too true. Dealing with such heavy issues, the film could be hard to digest and though it is hard hitting, the way in which Daniels’ juxtaposes scenes of rape with scenes of Precious’ daydreams, make the film more palatable, while in know way undermining the severity of the abuse. Indeed, the film deals with the matter sensitively not just because several of its cast and crew have personal experience of abuse.
Mo’Nique is the Academy Award winning Supporting Actress who sadly could draw on such personal experience. So convincing is she as the “whale on the couch” Mary, Precious’ frighteningly exploitative mother, that you easily find yourself hating this much-loved comedienne. She hurls vases, TVs and even babies, but she has no love to throw in Precious’ direction. Instead, she harbours resentment and jealousy and leaves their home with a vacuum of self-esteem.
But the film does not leave you feeling empty. Academy Award winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher does an excellent job in transforming Sapphire’s novel Push. The film is full of bad news but he creatively delivers it. It has a large focus on the power of education with it’s close ups on poster titled “try”. It’s unsurprising that Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry were the producers.
With many scenes in the classroom it could have slipped into the terrain of Dangerous Minds, but this is distinctly Precious’ story and for Precious girls everywhere. In being their voice and telling their story, it is powerful and deeply moving.
It is an important film that tackles poverty and welfare culture. But most disturbing is the moral bankruptcy presented. It is surprising that so many reviews that followed the film’s release focused on the complexion or the weight of the characters but to me what stands out is the content of the characters and the pedigree of the cast.
Paula Patton is so enchanting as teacher Ms Rain, Mariah Carey is unrecognizable as social worker Ms Weiss, and Lenny Kravitz as Nurse John shines in one of the many and much needed lighter scenes where he flirts with Precious’ classmates. Kravitz plays one of the few male characters, and this is very much a woman’s story, which speaks a universal language of survival. When the film opened in the UK, despite the number of awards it won, it was only in selected cinemas. I was sad to see that it was not in my local supermarket despite this particular chain offering the best price, but apparently it was ‘not in the store’s chart’. However, this film is too precious to be sidelined.
Precious is out on Blue Ray and DVD now. Features include interviews with Oprah and Tyler Perry and a conversation with Lee Daniels and Sapphire.
The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at [email protected].