Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Published: .
Updated: .

David Swindle
Grade: B

We are born into this world broken.

At the moment we stumble from our mother's womb we are shattered - no longer one with the mother who created us, no longer in a state of blissful union with God.

For most of us our lives from that traumatic moment on are supposed to be a healing. In the care of our parents we are nurtured and loved to the point that we can begin to feel whole again. We might no longer be one with our mothers but we know we are loved.

That's hardly, the fate of everyone, though. In the case of Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) she is not only born broken, but every day her soul is crushed into even tinier pieces by the ones who are supposed to be bringing her together. By the time she is 16-years-old she is overweight, illiterate, and pregnant with her second child. And who's the father? Her own father, who has raped her regularly since she was three.

Precious lives in the projects in Harlem with her physically and emotionally-abusive mother Mary Lee (Mo'Nique.) Precious' life is a cycle of disappointments: being told how stupid and worthless she is by her mother, failing in school due to her illiteracy, being a virtual slave to her mother - cooking fatty, disgusting food for her, and damaging visits from her father.

Amidst her mother's verbal abuse she is told that school cannot help her and that instead she should just get on welfare. Precious' principal has other ideas, though. She signs Precious up for an alternative school. Once there Precious encounters Mrs. Blu Rain (Paula Patton) and a small class of other lost souls struggling to better themselves and escape the pain of their pasts. With the support of this community and growing confidence from her educational progress will Precious gain the courage to improve her situation in life?

The film is the second directing effort of Lee Daniels. The first was the inventive 2005 thriller "Shadowboxer." Daniels is more well-known, though, as a producer. "Monster's Ball," "The Woodsman," and "Tennessee" all emerged from his production company.

"Precious" fits in with "The Woodsman" and "Monster's Ball" in particular - as a searing, sexually-charged, discomforting drama filled with amazing, A-level performances.

"Precious" also suffers from those other two films' principle flaw: inadequate, somewhat flawed scripts marred by slowness and an awkward flow. Daniels is talented at creating emotionally-electrifying moments. What he has yet to do is effectively integrate them into coherent narratives. Thus "Precious" basically has a C-level script, B-level visual direction, and A-level actors and performances. Without Mo'Nique, Sidibe, Patton, and Mariah Carey as social worker Mrs. Weiss, "Precious" would be worth skipping for all but the most devoted fans of the novel. But with this team of actresses in place the film contains some of the year's most emotionally-gripping scenes. Mo'Nique in particular will receive nominations come awards season. 

In his directing and producing work Daniels has pursued the most serious of themes: our innate human brokenness and our often dangerous attempts to regain wholeness. He has yet to make his masterpiece, but with "Precious" we can know he's moving in the right direction.