Precious depicts the worst that a girl’s experience can be — raped by her father, emotionally and physically abused by her mother, denigrated or ignored by almost everyone around her (not to mention the entire culture at large), to the point where she has no hope and nothing to live for.
How do we tell a story like that if we’re not upfront about it? What happens to Precious may be extreme, but nothing that we see here is unbelievable, unless one wants to deny the hell that some women go through because of the color of their skin, their gender, or the low expectations everyone has for them. Are we simply not supposed to tell some stories because they’re too uncomfortable, or because we don’t want to acknowledge the reality of them?
Her real name is Claireece Jones, but everyone calls her Precious. Which is a cruel joke, until she begins attending an alternative school, Each One Teach One, where her teacher (Paula Patton) is kind to her — which, after what we’ve seen of Precious’s life to that point, seems like something out of a fairy tale.
This isn’t movie-of-the-week stuff, with a plucky heroine and a happy ending. It isn’t sentimental, and nothing about it is sugar-coated; that would be the stuff of liberal guilt. And if straight-up depiction of Precious’s hellish life is “pornographic” or “racist,” then surely it is more pornographic and racist that all this actually occurs in the real world?
Director Lee Daniels — working from the novel Push, by Sapphire, and a script by Geoffrey Fletcher — dares to give us a sympathetic heroine in Precious, even though she is obese, very dark-skinned, and massively depressed (for very good reasons).
In an entertainment culture where crap like Women in Trouble — in which beautiful women, for very narrow definitions of “beautiful,” strip down to their lingerie and talk about sexually pleasuring men — is offered as an authentic and honest depiction of women, Gabourey Sidibe, and her Precious, are the real thing. (Rated R)