Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire had its gala screening at the Toronto International Film Festival and in attendance was director Lee Daniels, actors Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd, Mariah Carey and newcomer Gabby Sidibe, and of course, executive producers Tyler Perry and Oprah. Mary J. Blige, who wrote the song “I Can See In Color” on the movie’s soundtrack, and Sapphire, author of Push, were also in attendance for the screening. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to not only see them on stage to introduce the film, but also watch this incredibly powerful movie before it was released into theatres nationwide. Now the winner of TIFF’s People’s Choice Award!
Precious Jones, the protagonist of the movie, is an obese, illiterate, abused, neglected teenager. She is verbally and physically abused by her mother, was raped by her father since she was a small child, which resulted in two pregnancies – her first child being born with down syndrome – and she is constantly teased and treated with malice at school and in her neighbourhood. She feels invisible and unloved. Yet, even with all the hardships she has and continues to endure, she still has aspirations for a better life. Even in moments of hopelessness and dire, the film cuts to sequences of her dreams of being a glamorous star, showered with loving attention by her mom, the public and a boyfriend “with real nice hair”.
After being called into the principal’s office, just to be expelled from school for getting pregnant a second time, she starts class in an alternative school where she ultimately meets a teacher named Ms. Rain (played by Paula Patton). This is one of those teachers that are typical in movies about underprivileged children who just need some guidance to make something of themselves, the kind of teacher that get really involved in their students’ lives and tries to really make a difference. Each day, the students are asked to write in a journal, whether it be fictional stories or about their own lives, and Ms. Rain would write back with her thoughts. Slowly but surely, Precious comes out of her shell and a special bond quickly forms between her and Ms. Rain. It is somewhat a clichéd story plot but this isn’t to say that this aspect makes the film any less powerful and engaging. The other students in the class are definitely characters, providing much of the comedy in an otherwise dark and disturbing film.
Performance wise, newcomer Gabby Sidibe and Mo’Nique, who plays Precious’ mother, are outstanding. Their performances are raw and poignant. Even though Mo’Nique portrays a vile and abusive mother, at the end when she is explaining why she sat idly by while her husband raped her child, she’s actually able to incite some sympathy and compassion from the viewer for a character so despicable, so heinous. Mariah Carey also is in the movie, playing a case worker assigned to work with Precious. Surprisingly, especially considering the train-wreck that was Glitter, she does a pretty good job. Not being afraid to “get ugly” (i.e. not glammed up in Mariah’s case), she is almost unrecognizable in the film. Lenny Kravitz makes a cameo in the film too.
The take-away from the film is a feeling of hope. After seeing Precious persevere, in trying to get her life together for herself and her children, even with the odds stacked up against her and the significant baggage she has in her life, it made me feel empowered. And while Precious is a fictional character, there are girls like her everywhere, albeit invisible to most, and I think this ultimately serves as inspiration for anyone feeling downtrodden and pessimistic. Yes, it’s dark, it covers some really serious and upsetting issues, and it doesn’t necessarily end off on a “happily ever after” note nor it is by any means a feel good movie — but it offers a glimmer of hope and that’s just one of the reasons why I found Precious so inspiring.
Introductions to Precious