Precious Review: A Grittily Realistic Yet Enduring Tale of Struggle

preciousFor the majority of the populace movies are an escape from the normal day problems and anxieties that encompass most individual’s lives. That is the essential distinction between a movie, solely for entertainment’s sake, and what a film can aspire to be, a reflection or story that deepens our understanding of complex issues or gives us a unique perception on life. There are many cinematic journeys that fit in the description of being a film, but there are some films that take great leaps and risks to present to us a reality that is uncomfortable, difficult, and at times quite shocking. Lee Daniels’ new film Precious, based on the novel Push written by Sapphire, is a risky and hauntingly realistic film that delves into the trying life of the protagonist Clareece “Precious” Jones, an illiterate 16 year old pregnant with her second child who has a life full of abuse. Where Precious will challenge most people is in unfamiliarity with atrocious abuse, whether it be sexual, mental, or physical, but it will hit those who do understand these atrocities quite close. But this isn’t to say the film is a constant bludgeoning to our sensitive natures but rather it coerces us to see the reality while offering a hopeful light at the end of the dark tunnel that feels, to some people, to be an endless struggle.

Precious’ screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher has delicately adapted the novel into a script that is grittily realistic and surreally hopeful. Hearing and seeing the hostile environment where Precious lives and breathes was a difficult task to complete but the fine direction from Lee Daniels successfully invites us into an alienating world while also giving us a protagonist worth caring for. Precious is played by newcomer Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe who embraces such a vulnerable and domineering character delivering a heart wrenching performance. Seeing the world through her eyes is a revealing and challenging journey, either with the realistic brutality of rape by her father to the physical and mental abuse inflicted by her mother, or the fantastic imagination she possesses filled with hopeful conversations and scenarios such as being a movie star or a BET dancer. These imaginary sequences interspersed throughout the film at times of shocking abuse reveal the pleasantries of escapism when confronted with psychologically devastating or physically harmful situations. But who wouldn’t want to escape into hopeful delusions when you are beaten into submission and feel as though you must accept the state that you’re in.

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However, things don’t always have to remain the same. Precious is offered a choice to attend an alternative school where she meets Ms. Rain, played by an effectively affectionate and endearing Paula Patton, who resembles everything a good teacher should be. There Precious is able to open up, relieve her pride, embrace scholastic initiatives, and do something for herself. Since the film is set in 1987 there is an interesting societal critique that is quite potent as the film comes to a close. While the film embraces the idea of aiding those less fortunate, either financially or psychologically, it still is quite critical of the welfare culture creating dependency and dishonesty. This is essential to seeing the hope filled message throughout the film because Precious doesn’t need welfare, she needs human connection and aid, something that is revealed to her in different ways on her struggling journey. Her mother abused her into feeling worthless but life is too precious and short to have other people inflict their insecurities and negative views on you. This gives the film an enduring and hopeful message, one that will truly surprise some audience viewers.

All of these incredibly arduous and sensitive topics are explored marvelously by the cast and crew. Cinematographer Andrew Dunn captures the moods and imagery of each difficult and heart warming scene while Editor Joe Klotz cuts together a delicate piece of cinema that is artistic, suspenseful, and emotional. But the surprise about the film is the unorthodox casting choices that prove to us that defying the conventions of typical cast choices can highly aid your film. Female Comedian Mo’Nique is enthralling as Precious’ abusive mother and it wouldn’t surprise this writer if she got nominated for her challenging and gritty performance. There are also some memorable and surprising performances from musician Lenny Kravitz as a male nurse and Mariah Carey as a social worker. The film doesn’t let these strange casting choices affect it’s unquestionably moving delivery and arching message despite one final plot struggle that seems to be a nail in the coffin for hope.

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Indeed in all of our lives there is much struggle and sometimes it can be unbearable and soul crushing. But what Precious wishes to teach us is that with even the slightest of help from one caring individual that ignites our own will we can dominate our struggles and break away from the standard which doesn’t have to be our road. Lee Daniels brought an effective cast and crew together to make a moving film that heightens our understanding of abuse, poor education and the need for choice, and providing a first step for those who need it. This film is challenging but then again what worth while lesson isn’t. This film takes the risk that most movies can’t seem to grasp and that is depicting gritty realism but offering what can be a remedy for these atrocious societal problems. Precious will hands down be a best picture nominee and is worth your time, money, and understanding.

Grade: A-

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