Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” By Sapphire

It pleases me greatly to type out that entire title. This movie has been talked about endlessly since it first came out in 2009, as both a “breakout” (HATE THAT WORD SO MUCH) role for Gabourey Sidibe and a perpetual punchline for, whatever, everything, and yet I only got around to watching it a few days ago. At least I feel that much close to attaining pop culture enlightenment now. (And I also know that Mariah Carey is capable of improving upon this.)

Gabourey Sidibe really is a treasure in this movie. I think most of her naivete and rawness and magnetism can be attributed to the fact that this was the first thing she acted in, ever, in her life, so she had been completely untouched by Hollywood and all of its impurities. But there is something about her that I can’t place that makes her the only person who could have possibly played Precious. She inhabits a dark world with an ironic light, and even as I was laughing at the fleeting moments of humor in the movie, I didn’t feel so bad about it because it seemed like Precious (and Gabby) wanted her audience to enjoy itself. The dream sequences, in which Precious imagines a life of fame and fortune, are this welcome, tension-free relief from a situation that can’t even be described accurately in the English language. An attempt: Precious is 16 and pregnant and HIV+ with her second child by her father. Her mother is among the worst of the humans. Mo’Nique, who played this mother, dug up some serious shit for the role. By now, we all know that she won the Oscar and deserved it and all that, but if you haven’t seen the movie yet, it really is worth watching just to experience that level of acting. After all, Mo’Nique is a comedian. Now, I know comedians are inherently dark people, but this performance is a completely different level of pitch-black dark. It’s unreal, and haunting, and it makes you glad to be living the life you’re living, which is to say, not the life of Precious or Mary.

Paula Patton, as Precious’ teacher Ms. Rain, also deserves some credit for lifting the spirit of this movie. She’s a complicated beacon of hope for Precious, and she teaches Precious to make her life something worthwhile. It’s because of her classroom of misfits that Precious finds family outside of her own home. But the movie belongs to the leading ladies, though I can’t say that term is really applicable here because Precious is a tragedy, and leading ladies always come out on top. The movie ends on a positive note, but the story doesn’t. Watch it anyway.

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