An indomitable, indefatigable human spirit comes to the forefront in Lee Daniels' unmissable candid and unsentimental documentary-like drama.
Produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire features two exemplary efforts, one by Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the other by Mo'Nique, known for her flamboyant turns in comedies like Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins.
In a gradual coercive tale set in 1987 Harlem, Sidibe's Claireece "Precious" Jones is a distraught, very obese black teenager, as evidenced by her home and school life. Somehow, unable to read or write, she has gotten the grades to advance to the ninth grade.
Impregnated twice by a deadbeat dad and physically and emotionally tormented by her welfare dependent reclusive mother, a revelatory turn by Mo'Nique, an impassive Precious, on the verge of expulsion, begins the road of her empowerment.
Each One/Teach One is an "alternative" place of learning that helps give her the measure of control and assuredness needed as a thoughtful Ms. Rain (Paula Patton of Deja Vu) offers tutelage in a literacy workshop.
Daniels has drawn admirably from his producer role in the lauded Monster's Ball to produce something this clear-headed and unexpectedly inspirational off of such a miserable, dysfunctional existence. This lead character is definitely akin to the son of Halle Berry's lamenting Leticia who has her own way of coping with life as when looking in her bedroom mirror there are images of a white model.
Precious isn't given special treatment or asked to be pitied as she can't help her self from making off with some fast food or personal paperwork. Sidibe is simply sensational in bringing the kind of raw vulnerability that makes the story resonate with much emotion and understanding as the woman in the mirror documents her story as a means of change. And, Mo'Nique matches her with an equally compelling arc unfurled with edge and jealousy that makes the latter scenes between mother gone mad and daughter more difficult and shattering to say the least.
Besides a fine Patton, noticeable backup comes from Lenny Kravitz as helpful healthcare worker, and Mariah Carey glitters with tenderness and a little toughness as a social worker. Precious, in spite of its shadowy washed-out appearance which resembles its monstrous reality, has a masterful mechanism against an insurmountable despair through humanity and hope as issues in the inner-city are confronted with insight and integrity.