It has taken me quite a while to write the review of Precious. Not because I didn’t like the movie or had a case of writer’s block, but because Precious was such a powerful movie, that I had to step away from it for a while and look back on the movie from a distance. I had heard about Precious when it won at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. Then one day, as I was browsing through Half-Price Books, I saw the book Push by Sapphire on which the movie is based. It is only about 175 pages, but each page is full of powerful and intense images of the abuse that the main character faces. Not only is she sexually abused by her father, but she bears two children by him, one of which has Downs syndrome. She is also physically, emotionally and sexually abused by her monster of a mother, played by Mo’Nique.
Precious: Based on the novel Push, by Sapphire (the official title) takes place in Harlem, New York in 1987. Claireece Precious Jones is sixteen years old and pregnant for the second time by her father. She is a victim not only of her abusive family, but also of society. She is obese and the victim of jokes and teasing by her neighbors and classmates. She goes to school each day, but can’t read or write beyond a 1st or 2nd grade level. It seems as though her life is going nowhere, when a counselor, played by a very unglamorous Mariah Carey offers her a chance to improve her life by enrolling in an alternative school that will help her get her GED.
There Precious meets Miss Blue (Paula Patton), a teacher who cares and wants to help her. In the Each One, Teach One School, Precious finally finds friends and a new sense of self. It is the first time in her life that she meets people who truly care about her. Director Lee Daniels has done an incredible job of not only putting the novel on the screen, but he was able to bring performances out of non-actors like Gabourey and Mariah that are sincerely authentic. In her first acting job ever, Gabourey Sidibe, a psychology student at NY’s Mercy College brings to life the sadness and hopeless that Precious feels at the beginning of the movie, and as we watch her change and grow stronger, we can see that even though she had many obstacles, there is hope.
Mo’Nique’s performance as the horrible, ghetto mother from hell, Mary Jones is chilling. We have seen Mo’Nique in other movies and as a comedienne. But as Mary Jones, she went ‘somewhere else‘. It was RAW. That is the only word I can think of that describes her performance. Mary Jones is a woman who allows her boyfriend to molest her young daughter and blames the daughter for ‘stealing her man. Her only feelings for Precious and her grandchildren are attached to the welfare check they represent. Mo’Nique has already won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performance and if there is any justice, she will take home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar as well.
Watching Precious made me think about how many Mary Jones are there out there walking around who are mentally abusing their children. I thought about how many girls like Precious walk the hallways of their schools being ignored and poorly educated by the school system. Perhaps there are others even worse off then Precious. It made me think….