Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (USA)


directed by: Lee Daniels
starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Lenny Kravitz, Sherri Shepherd, Stephanie Andujar, Amina Robinson, Chyna Layne, Xosha Roquemore, Angelic Zambrana, Mariah Carey
Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire
 

Bruce says: "Lee Daniels’ filmography is enviable. Above all he is a risk taker - beginning with his production of MONSTER’S BALL and THE WOODSMAN which dealt with electrocution, racism and pedophilia to SHADOWBOXER, his directorial debut about paid two assassins, an interracial couple who also happen to be mother and stepson, coming to terms with her terminal illness. For his second directorial effort (he also produced the film) he turns to incest and abuse with PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE. Based on a 1997 novel, it is easy to see why the story of a sixteen year old obese black girl who is pregnant with her father’s second child took so long to make it to the screen – it is not what Hollywood considers entertainment. This is a story that lay waiting for Daniels’ finesse and derring-do. The film has been well received, one of just three films ever to win both the Audience and Jury Awards at Sundance. Mo’Nique also received an award for Best Actress.

"Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is the emotionally detached sixteen year-old who is physically and verbally abused by her mother. Some days she goes to school and others she doesn’t. Kids make fun of her which adds to her withdrawal. To ease her pain she fantasizes about being either famous (a diva singing on a huge stage) or normal (marrying one of her white teachers and moving to Westchester to become a housewife.). In the principal’s office she is asked 'Are you pregnant?' After silence the principal says 'Do you have any thoughts?' Finally Precious replies 'Am I in trouble?' By most Precious is considered stupid; however, one teacher notices that Precious has a decided aptitude for math, and he concludes that she may be disturbed rather than dumb. Subsequently she is recommended for an alternative schooling program called Each One Teach One. Mary (Mo’Nique), her mother, is unsupportive; she wants Precious to get her ass down to the welfare office. She values neither education nor knowledge because they do not help get a larger welfare check.

"Precious’ teacher at Each One Teach One is Blu Rain (Paula Patton) who has a class of six or seven girls, each of whom has a problem. Unlike Precious all the girls are extremely vocal. Ms. Rains modus operandi is to have each girl maintain a notebook of their thoughts, daily writing that describes their circumstances, their feelings and their aspirations. Day one Precious begins and ends with a blank page. Gradually, with the help of Ms. Rain and the other girls in the class, Precious responds, and she discovers her true family lies outside her home. The 'big scene' in the film occurs not in the classroom but in the welfare office where Precious’ caseworker (Mariah Carey) has staged a confrontation with Precious and her mother – it is a horrifying denouement, beautifully written and acted.

"PUSH explores the emotional landscape of the welfare cycle, presenting the circumstances as a natural extension of our culture rather than an aberration. Contrary to what one might expect, Mary and Precious do not inhabit a world of drug addiction or slum dwelling. Their apartment building is respectable and the apartment is decently furnished. Like the functioning members of society, they are influenced by television, advertising and pop culture. It is the absence of self esteem and emotional gratification that has grounded them.

"It is inconceivable that PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE could have been made without Gabourey Sidibe who is remarkable beyond words. Mo’Nique takes advantage of her juicy role and delivers a career-defining performance. Paula Patton is wonderful as are the girls who play Precious’ classmates. Superstars Lenny Kravitz and Maria Carey underplay their cameo roles admirably. Stylistically, PUSH never stagnates. Clever editing, some animation and well placed music diversions offer contrast to a straightforward story. PUSH: BASED ON THE NOVEL BY SAPPHIRE is entertaining, illuminating and ultimately humbling. 5 cats"

 

Diane says: "This is how I'm judging PRECIOUS: when the movie started, I found Precious, an abused sixteen-year-old living in Harlem, to be shut down and unlikable; at the end, I loved her. Transformations for both of us. I concur with a lot of what Bruce said in his five-cat review. Editing and camerawork for scenes of abuse and Precious' fantasies make the former bearable to watch and the latter a vision of who this girl really is. Noms for lead Gabourey Sidibe, supporting Mo'Nique and Mariah Carey. Lots to think about. 4 cats."

Scot responds: " Very well said. I never thought I'd nominate Mariah Carey for anything, unless it was for "Most Annoying Warble" but she's on my list too. My only quibbles with the film were a few careless editing directorial choices and a really difficult sappy scene that the teacher couldn't quite pull off. 4 1/2 cats from me."

 

Michael says: "I was quite taken by surprised by PRECIOUS, as I was expecting to really not like it.  Instead, I too found the performances excellent, and the movie far less manipulative than I expected.  Like Scot, I did find a few transitional moments to be somewhat awkward.  In addition, I found the screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher (adapted from the novel Push by Sapphire) to be a little awkward at times as well.  But overall a great surprise and very well done.  I’m in agreement on the noms for Gabourey Sidibe and No’Nique, but while I thought Mariah Carey was surprisingly excellent, there were one or two moments where I didn’t think she pulled it off, so no nod for her (although it’s a massive step up from GLITTER!)  I’m wish I could have seen Helen Mirren in the role as originally cast – do you think she would have been a New Yorker?  4 cats"

Diane responds: "Helen Mirren--wow! I prefer Carey, although Mirren would have worn the character's last outfit better."

 
Thom says: "It’s already been said by so many of our group and I totally concur: this film is a major work of art. Sibide was miles better than lackluster Sandra Bullock was in her award-winning role, but the Oscars have never been about authenticity. & Mo’Nique was more than worthy of her Oscar, congratulations girl! I’m only thrilled that this film got as much recognition as it did. Both tragic & heartwarming it stands as a brilliant look at a side of life that I’ve never been a part of. I really had wanted to see this in Toronto last year where it won Best-of-festival by audiences, but tickets were impossible to attain. 5 cats"