Directed by: Lee Daniels
Written by:Geoffrey Fletcher
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz
Released: February 4, 2010
Grade: A-

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire is, funnily enough, based on the novel Push by Sapphire.  The filmmakers went with the unusual title to avoid any confusion with another film called Push (starring Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning) which was released in 2009.  I have to admit that the title is catchy.  How many patrons will go up to the ticket counter and recite the full title?  Can I please have two tickets to Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.  Oh, and I’ll also have a small popcorn and coke.

Actually, popcorn is probably a bad idea.  Not just for your own physical wellbeing but because this is not exactly a “popcorn movie”.  It’s the confronting story of a 16-year-old girl named Precious (Sidibe).  To say her life is a living hell would be an understatement.  She has been raped by her father since just a child.  She is continually abused, both verbally and physically, by her mother (Mo’Nique).  She has problems with her weight and is teased at school.  She can’t even read or write.

I admit it sounds about as bleak as a movie can be and yes, there are some scenes which are tough to watch.  Director Lee Daniels wants to take the audience into a black hole of unhappiness.  He’s not doing this to torture us though.  This story is one of hope.  He wants to show that no matter how bad life is, we all have the ability to change it.  All you need are big dreams and determination.

Precious has those qualities.  Forced to leave her regular school after falling pregnant, Precious enrols at Each One / Teach One.  It’s a special education facility which tries to help troubled kids.  Guided by a passionate teacher (Patton), Precious sets herself some lofty goals.  Not only does she want to learn how to read, she wants to gain her high school diploma and go to college!  She knows that education is power.

The film has received much acclaim and its strength lies within the performances.  As the mother, Mo’Nique is unspeakably cruel and I understand why she’ll win the best supporting actress Oscar next month.  There’s a scene late in the movie where she speaks with Precious and a social worker (played nicely by Mariah Carey) that will leave a lasting impression.

Just as good is Gabourey Sidibe in the leading role.  Two years ago, she was a receptionist from Harlem with no acting experience.  She didn’t hold out much hope when she auditioned but the rest is now history.  Her quiet, restrained performance suits the character perfectly.  I also liked Paula Patton (Mirrors) as the school teacher.  There are some light hearted moments in the class room which help brighten the film’s dark undertones.

The elements of the story I didn’t like were Precious’ “dream sequences”.  They’re a distraction and I don’t know what purpose they served.  The part where Precious and her mother appear in a black and white, subtitled Italian movie was strange indeed.

Before I go, let me mention the title again – it’s Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.  Just wanted to make sure you remember… and I also wanted to say it again myself.