There has already been enough written and spoken coverage of the movie, 'Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire' that I feel horribly late, and worse still, naive.
In my defence though, I was dreading watching this film out of sheer apprehension. Not someone to physically weep because of a movie, it is obvious why I didn't wish to blemish that one characteristic of mine.
But when I did get over my anxiety, I realised I had to see it. In one sitting.
Portrayed beautifully by Gabourey Sidibe, Claireece Precious Jones is overweight, illiterate, and abused sexually and physically at home. She ceases to exist, and becomes an object to which things are done. Her rapist, incestuous father, who impregnated her twice, and began the assault when she was only three. Her abusive, unemployed and disgruntled mother, ironically named Mary (played by Monique), who is angry with her for stealing a man. For being obese. For simply existing.
Her escapes into this world are heart-wrenching, to say the least. To see how sad one child could be gnaws at you, and then keeps you at your toes.
Precious is expelled from school, for being pregnant again, at the nubile age of sixteen. There on, she joins an alternative school where she meets her beautiful teacher, Miss Blu Rain, and confides in her. She begins to learn, to find solace in the English alphabet. And she writes. Writes about what she feels. All this while, her mother hits her with airborne objects, slaps her, makes her hog. And then Mary calls Precious names, while simultaneously blaming her for taking away her 'man'. As much as I am tempted to, I will refrain from ruining the plot for you.
Precious' story is not extraordinary, it is her circumstances that make it so. Her mother refuses to acknowledge rape, she herself is so confused and so violated she doesn't know what to do, what to say, how to react. She doesn't speak in class, and on the occassion that she does, she finds it difficult to look anyone in the eye. Yes, she is a destroyed child, but she is more than that. She is beautiful and intelligent. What makes the movie for me is the fact that Lee Daniels let Precious be beautiful, intelligent, smart and a caring mother while still showing how much she has been affected by the perils of family life.
The portrayal of the intensely complex mother-daughter relationship was taut and resisted the impulse to be overly melodramatic. No, Mary doesn't hate Precious. She is jealous of her, she is jealous of her own grandchildren. Mary, too, is a woman who has been hardened by life. You almost don't hate her for treating her child like a beast. But then, each time she gets into a physical fight, you want her to keel over.
I admit, I weeped like a little girl. A child (that is what she is!) is sucked into a vortex of hatred for herself and family, without ever realising that there are people who love her. There are people who want her to live. She looks into a mirror and wants to see a skinny white blond 'bitch' staring right back at her. She herself wants to be skinny, thanks to the innumerable comments and criticisms she has received for her weight.
At some point during the movie though, it stops being about her weight. I couldn't care less if she weighed 62 pounds(yes, there is a model who weighs that much). What I did want, and care about was hugging the poor child. Hugging her to let her know someone will be there.
Honestly, I cannot imagine how I would react if I were Claireece. Would I be the same? I think not. I am too small a person to even begin to comprehend being in her shoes.
The one segment/shot that made me smile and cry, together, was when Precious escapes with her son, is walking along the subway platform and chants the alphabet. She seems to be in a trance, and latches on to the hope of being an educated and intelligent mother to her children.
It was then that her short future was laid out for the mute audience.