A word of caution to those seeking out this film for its inspirational attributes. Precious can be hard to watch at times. By the end, we are proud of this girl for what she has accomplished and overcome. But the amount of physical and sexual abuse she suffers at the hands of her own parents is disturbing, heartbreaking and is the main source of her challenges.
Like many sixteen year old girls, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) daydreams of being famous, fabulous and loved saying, “I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with real nice hair. And I wanna be on the cover of a magazine. But first I wanna be in one of them BET videos.” Nearly illiterate, she sits in the back of an unruly class listening to a teacher she admires, but he doesn’t quite reach to the back unless they need discipline. Still, school is a safer place for Precious than her home life. Then she is expelled for being pregnant, again.
It is inside her family’s dark, dingy apartment that Precious has to fight to survive. She has been raped by her father, causing both her pregnancies and her mother’s hatred, for “stealing” her man. Her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique) is addicted to drugs, leeches off the welfare system, and regularly lashes out at Precious. Every time Mary opens her mouth, he speech is laced with verbal abuse. In her more active moments, Mary comes within inches of bashing her daughter’s head in with a skillet. We quickly learn to fear for Precious every moment she is within her home.
The school councilor notices that Precious is a good student, not the kind that shows academic potential but deserves a chance, and offers her to enroll in an alternative school. There she meets Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), a teacher who mainly encourages her students to write journals in an attempt to get them to think clearly and communicate better. Rain takes a special interest in Precious, trying to break through her nearly defeated and silent attitude. With the help and support of Rain, her classmates and a dedicated social worker (Mariah Carey), Precious takes the first steps to a better life free of her abusive mother.
The acting in this movie is just astounding, director Lee Daniels has a talent for bringing some incredible characters out of his actors. Sidibe made an explosive debut starring as the downtrodden Precious. Though she’s young and inexperienced, she perfectly portrays these ideas of being beaten down until she is nearly ready to shut down. She is heartbreaking, lovable and slightly hopeful all at once. Mo’Nique’s Oscar win was well deserved. After her first few moments on screen, we know to just fear her. She brings out this vicious side of a woman just defeated by life so convincingly it scared the hell out of me. And she shows that Mary has some cunning as well, putting on a wig and an act when the social worker comes over so she can keep her welfare. The desperation of Precious’ situation is never more frightening than in that stairwell scene. It nearly had me hyperventilating and crying for fear of poor Precious and her child.
“You can’t handle none of this.”