Precious is a 16 year old girl who has been terribly abused all her life but who is still positive that one day soon her prince, and all that goes with it, will come. It is a harrowing story but the message is one of profound hope and as Precious is brave enough to endure it, then so should we be.
The story starts with a voice-over from our heroine that tells us of her hopes and dreams but the rug is quickly snatched from under us as the darkness surrounding this tragic young life unfolds and we witness the extent of the cruelty she is forced to endure. To escape, Precious drifts into a dream world that takes her away from the misery and abject poverty that devour her being and carries us up high to show us how her life will be when she finally gets things to turn around.
This voice-over initially charms and delights but, disappointingly, becomes mundane and the film misses an opportunity to let us share each step of this young girl’s desolate descent. No one could resist being drawn in when Precious reaches her nadir, but this journey could have been so much more spirited if we had only got to know her better. Precious does confide in us that the kindness of the new people in her life makes her feel warm and it is this warmth and their hope for her that finally carries her through, but when this consciousness is reached it is in a voice-over which seems too convenient and the events surrounding it contrived. For some reason Aids is brought in as a plot device which is not part of the original story and seems incongruous in a piece so rich in character. This inclusion also denies the last thought of the audience that hope will manage to overcome all.
The performances are brilliant, and no one deserves to have their story told more than Sapphire, but these considerations aside, I really am tired of seeing actors of color in this light. Films that perpetuate negative stereotypes of any race take us further and further away from the melting pot the hippies pinned their hopes and dreams on in the same decade that Precious was living her tortured life. So if any producers are reading, the next time I see a film like this I’d like the sexual abuse to come from a British aristocrat father, the violence from a Filipino mother, the kindly welfare officer to be a German male and the gardener Canadian. You can cast Americans for the other roles and by Americans I mean anyone who was born in the US. Capisce?
Running time: 109 mins
Cast: Gabourey Sidibi (Precious), Mo’Nique (Mary), Paula Patton (Ms Rain), Maria Carey (Ms Weiss)
Director: Lee Daniels
Original novel: Sapphire (her true story)
Adapted by: Geoffrey Fletcher
Producers: Lee Daniels Entertainment
Release date: 6th November, 2009