By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2009--A POWERFUL 'PRECIOUS'  Send This Review to a Friend

If it is an emotionally-involving film you are after, “Precious” more than fills the bill. The film about a teenager’s struggles against the battering life has dealt her turned out to be a hit of the 2009 York Film Festival and bids to be a powerful entry when the various organizations get around to giving awards. There are performances to tear at your heart and rattle your insides.

Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, “Precious” stars Gabourey Sidibe as Claireece “Precious” Jones, a 16-year old African-American in 1987 Harlem whose life has been a classic case of abuse all along the line. She has been sexually abused by her father while her mother has known and allowed it to happen, and her mother has battered her. Precious is pregnant with her second child. She is in school but can’t read or write. Her chance for salvation comes with the opportunity to attend an alternative school.

The film is all about following the journey as Precious finally, step by step, acquires a measure of self-esteem. Sidibe is sensational in the role. Precious is way overweight, and on the surface there is nothing attractive about her. But as one gets to know her one sees beauty in her face and in the repressed aspirations and emotions that Sidibe manages to convey as there and needing to find the right outlet.

Another award-level performance is given by Mo’Nique as the mother. On the one hand the actress portrays the brutality the mother inflicts on the life of Precious and shows how there is so little hope of a decent relationship between them. But there is also a scene in which the mother has her say about her past and her circumstances, and Mo'Nique jolts us with the performance that gets deep into the psyche of this forlorn, miserable woman. Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd and Lenny Kravitz also excel in other roles.

With a screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher, director Lee Daniels has made the film ultra realistic, and as a result, we get a gritty feel of the environment in which the sad but gripping story unfolds. There is a turning point in Precious’ life at which a viewer is almost certain to shed a tear or two at the joy of seeing the vast change in her that has taken place.

Oprah Winfrey, as one of the producers, has gone all out to put a spotlight on the film, and she is to be commended. At the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, “Precious” copped the Festival’s audience award, derived from various public screenings at which filmgoers are asked to fill out forms voting for their favorites. A Lionsgate release.


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