Sunday, March 14, 2010

Precious: Grade B

Precious (2009)
Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton; Director Lee Daniels.

Sidibe plays Precious, an obese, impoverished, illiterate black teenager pregnant with her second child by incest. And her situation gets worse from there, if you can believe that. Her mother (Mo’Nique) is the same person only grown up, who lives with Precious on welfare, watches daytime TV, smokes, and reminds Precious how stupid and worthless she is. The school expels Precious for pregnancy but a kind teacher directs her to an alternative school where she might earn a GED. Despite being illiterate, she is soon writing articulate entries in her personal journal and sometimes reading them aloud to the small class. Over time and tribulation, she develops a modicum of self-respect and self-efficacy.

The movie is very well directed, so these stereotypes seem somewhat realistic. While it is basically a maudlin tear-jerker of a story, the outstanding acting, directing, sets, and dialog, get you inside the minds of Precious and her mother, so you are able to glimpse their world through their eyes rather than just shake your head in sociological pity. The overarching theme, that literacy makes everything possible, is too well-worn a cliché to be believable, and seems like an afterthought. Nevertheless, the level of detail selected by the writer and director, and the high quality acting, raise this tale to above average.

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