Friday, November 6, 2009

Movie Review: PRECIOUS

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Clareece "Precious" Jones is an obese, illiterate 16-year-old living with an incredibly vile mother (Mo'Nique) in 1987 Harlem. Precious already has one kid (and you'll be horrified when you learn why the child has Down Syndrome) -- and she's pregnant again. Kicked out of her high school, she is invited to an alternative school -- where she hopes to finally move her life in a new direction. A better life -- that for now, she's only been able to fantasize about in her daydreams.

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is excellent in the title role as the teen whose hopes and dreams have been continually squashed due to her troubled home life. How is it possible that this girl even has dreams and a sense of humor after enduring so much physical and verbal abuse? Mo'Nique is superb as the worst mother on the planet -- she makes Mommie Dearest Joan Crawford look like June Cleaver. For any actress to pull this off would be amazing -- but for a comedian to do so is nothing short of a miracle. The rest of the supporting cast is also top-notch. Kudos to Mariah Carey for abandoning her real life glitz and beauty in a smaller, but strong role as a social worker. Finally, Glitter is deservedly behind her. Meanwhile, I didn't even recognize fellow singer/actor Lenny Kravitz until the credits rolled. All of these stars transformed so much for their roles -- it's truly a wonder to behold. Paula Patton (Idlewild) rounds out the fine cast as the teacher of the alternative school.

Warning -- this drama, expertly directed by Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer), is NOT an easy movie to watch. But you'll be glad you did because it will remind you that no matter how bad you may think your life is, someone always has it worse than you. And hopefully it will remind you that the human spirit is so strong -- it can prevail over any horror -- if you only let it.

With Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey as executive producers, the movie has been getting a lot of buzz -- and deservedly so. The film has already won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for best drama at the Sundance Film Festival -- and the equivalent of the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival. With ten films to be nominated for an Academy Award next year, this one is a definite shoo-in for a coveted spot. And if the Academy gets it right, we will see Oscar nominations for performances as well. It's a powerful film -- and it should not be missed. [Rated R; opens in limited release today, wider 11/13]

Grade: A


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