[This review will appear in one of our company’s monthly creativity newsletters]
If everything around your life is hostile and every situation you run into needs you to fight for survival, then where do you turn to? If the reality of the world you live in is all about abuse, incest, teen pregnancy, a child with down’s syndrome, a mother who is unemployed but exploits the system and hates you for being a bed companion to your father, then how do you find a new lease in life? Will you be able to handle it if you get one?
For a director to take up a story of an illiterate and an abused 16 year old African American from Harlem as narrated by Sapphire, it needs a certain kind of conviction to be genuine and honest, because the last thing you want, when you are adapting a novel of this nature is to yield to your cinematic grandiosity and get carried away with dramatization.
Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe plays to perfection the role of a domestically abused 16 year old, who goes through her second incest pregnancy in a sad but illiterate way. Mo’Nique is not far behind in the way she gets to portray a peanut loving, orange soda gulping, TV addicted mother, who could care less for her daughter. Just these 2 characters alone help build such an intense setting within the first 10 minutes of the movie.
It is not very easy for a book to do that, but Lee Daniels does it deftly in its movie form. From that point onwards, he had his task cut out easily, because all he had to do was not go overboard with emotions. Yet, when Mary (the mother) unfolds the story behind her hatred for “Precious” (daughter) to the social worker (Mrs. Weiss, played by Mariah Carey), if you are able to watch those few minutes on screen, without some kind of a disgust, remorse or general disdain towards human beings, then your heart is not in the right place.
“Precious” does not try to find solutions for all her problems, nor is she pessimistic of finding a way out of her miseries. She is neither a symbol of hope nor a symbol of failure. She is not your everyday girl, who deals with everyday problems, but fortunately for her, she is so illiterate and unexposed to a normal world, that she didn’t get to realize what she went through in her life till she was 16, is not normal. By the time she had that exposure & realization, she was sure that the worst was behind her. So, she gets to continue her struggle in a more realistic way.
A touching and a tumultuous teen-tale..