Heartbreaking film is truly ‘Precious’

By Kieran Layton

“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Starring: Gabby Sidibe, Mo’Nique,… “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Starring: Gabby Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey

Director: Lee Daniels

Studio: Lionsgate

Grade: A-

You know it’s an odd film season when Mo’Nique will be a serious contender for an Academy Award and Mariah Carey delivers a performance strong enough to make audiences forget “Glitter.”

Then again, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” isn’t a typical movie in any way.

Creeping into last year’s Sundance Film Festival to win the three major prizes, the simple yet heart-wrenching tale of an illiterate, obese black teenager — who is pregnant with her second child from her drug-addict father — is mostly deserving of all the praise it has garnered thus far.

Claireece “Precious” Jones’ (Gabby Sidibe) story is certainly a dark one, subjecting audiences to hyper-realistic depictions of rape, abuse and the despair they create. Precious’ mother (Mo’Nique) despises her daughter, and the audience despises her for it. It’s a performance so radically out of left field for the comedian that it will be a pleasure watching her scoop up supporting actress awards in the coming months.

Sidibe turns Precious into a mutedly beautiful character — the film often shifts from reality to daydream, only to jolt the viewer straight back to Precious’ story with emotionally harrowing scenes. Carey is surprisingly good as a social worker, and Paula Patton is the teacher who initiates change in Precious’ life.

Not a lot happens throughout the course of the film, and it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes the film’s conclusion so affecting. The script prefers to highlight the moments of silence in between the dialogue, where the actresses’ facial expressions offer more than ordinary words ever could.

There are odd elements — such as the random insertion of lesbianism — and the ending is, in true indie fashion, extremely unsatisfying. But these are only small detriments to a wonderful film.

Movies this precious don’t come along very often, and it’s a blessing when they do.