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Director Lee Daniels Delivers A Hard-Edged Film, 'Precious'

  • Penelope Poulou

Precious, an uplifting drama about the human condition

Precious, an uplifting drama about the human condition

Lee Daniel's low-budget film, "Precious," is based on the award-winning novel "Push" by the African American author Sapphire. Like the book, the movie tells the story of an obese 16-year-old girl from Harlem, the traditionally African American neighborhood of New York City that was once poverty stricken and dangerous. Precious rises above the physical and emotional abuse her family inflicts on her and takes back her life

There's no ray of hope for Precious. She waits on her mother hand and foot and receives not a kind word. She's kicked out of school because she's pregant by her own father. But Precious does not give up. She enrolls at an alternative school.

There, for the first time, Precious forms bonds.

The dialogue is spare. Whatever goes unsaid is communicated in looks, gestures, and body language. Colors are subdued, depressing. The scenes are only occasionally punctuated with color: A red sweater, a turquoise necklace, an orange scarf. They imply a sliver of hope.

Only the young girl's fantasies, where she escapes at her darkest moments, are in vivid color.

This is the first movie role for Gabby Sidibe who plays Clareece Precious Jones and she is already being mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee. Her acting is as hearfelt as it is heartbreaking.

But the one who is really expected to make the short list is Mo'nique. She interpets Mary, the mother of Precious, a woman with no conscience.

Singer Mariah Carey is almost unrecognizable in the film. She sheds her usual glamour to play Ms. Weiss, the plain and stern social worker.

The film is uncompromising, relentless. It has come under criticism for allegedly showing African Americans in a negative light. But director Lee Daniels, in a VOA interview, said the story transcends race.

"We come in all different colors," says the filmmaker. "We're colored people. So, we have athletes, we have drug dealers, we have doctors, we have murderers. We are people. You are people. It's a segment of life."

Precious beats the odds. She learns to read and write, defies her family and stands on her feet, stoically, quietly.

"If you leave the theater feeling sorry for Precious then you missed something," says newcomer Gabby Sidibe. "I want people to feel very uplifted by the story."

This is a gut-wrenching film that shows how resilient humans are. Painful and inspiring at the same time, it is impossible to leave the theater indifferent.