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Ron Wells’s review of “Precious” a film made from the novel “Push” by Sapphire

November 15, 2009
Note: I’ve seen the previews and read the review in the LA Times and the film looks provocative and worth watching. While I’ve yet to see it, here’s a review from friend Ron Wells. If you haven’t seen the film, and choose to read this review, keep in mind that it gives away several key points in the film. Guest blogger Ron Wells has a day job as a teacher and a passion for music. He’s guest blogged here before with reviews of Bruce Springsteen shows.


When one walks into the theater to see “Precious,” the film made from the novel, Push, by Sapphire, one walks directly into the violent, hidden underbelly of American society which is seldom talked about, let alone displayed on a movie screen.

Claireese “Precious” Jones, played with haunting perfection by Gabourey Sidibe, is a 16 year old girl, extremely overweight, barely literate, (she tell us that the tests she takes score her as being “less than dumb”), and about to have a second child by her father who rapes her. It is 1987 and she is living in Harlem. Her life is a living hell of a nightmare and there appears to be nowhere to go but up, and yet up turns out to be a state of mind that will allow this young woman to attempt to push herself to a life that has to be better.

But the violence and dream crushing reality is never far away, and seldom leaves her.

This is no feel  good, walk to freedom type of film. Instead, it is unrelenting in depicting physical, psychological, and emotional abuse as Precious walks what she hopes to be a path out of her earthly hell. And yet, just when it appears that path may be opening before her, the hate and anger that passes for life in her world, takes another shot at her. Rarely has such unrelenting familial violence been put on the screen.

This is definitely not the stuff that dreams are made of, and so Precious escapes reality by fantasizing about being in a music video, or having her math teacher fall in love with her, or looking in the mirror and seeing herself as thin, blond and beautiful. Escaping into fantasy becomes survival mode for her and an alternate form of reality.

The cast of this harrowing tale is perfect, but no one is better than Mo’Nique who plays Precious’ monster of a mother, Mary. The simmering anger, hate and rage that this woman carries with her lies barley below the surface throughout the film until it explodes in violence too painful to describe and just as painful to watch. There is a scene late in the film in which Mary explains how the abuse of Precious came about and it is perhaps the most powerfully horrific and  honest tale you will ever hear or see in film.

Paula Patton plays a teacher who tries to reach out to Precious and befriends her, and an almost unrecognizable Mariah Carey is a social worker who finally gets Mary to confess to all that has happened to Precious. Each actress plays their role just right as they try and offer a little hope in a world that mocks even the notion of hope.

Yet, how else to explain a film in which humor amazingly surfaces occasionally, and hope, even in the form of lifting her test scores from second grade to seventh grade levels, is the only option for Precious. The other option is to give up and die, an option which Precious does contemplate, but one that would leave her children motherless. And so, astoundingly, Precious reaches deep inside herself and finds some inner strength to keep on going, and thus pulls us along with her because we want so much for her to succeed. We want so much to see her pain alleviated.

At the start of this grueling, powerful film, a quote is displayed:

“Everything is a gift of the universe.”

Perhaps, and maybe that gift is what keeps Precious going, some inner light shining inside her soul that tells her she is of value, even when almost everything outside of her says the opposite.

There was no applause at the end of this film in a theater that was packed. Perhaps everyone was too emotionally exhausted to put their hands together. And yet, the reality of this girl’s life and the love and compassion you will feel for her will not be leaving you any time soon.

As the story ends, the words on the screen say that it is “dedicated to all of the Precious girls in this world,” and one wonders how many of them there are out there. Maybe we’ll all have a better idea now, and thus better understand the indomitability of these human spirits that are walking amongst us and reaching out to us.

Thanks, Ron! Here’s a link to another review Ron wrote, this one of a Bruce Springsteen show last April:

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 16, 2009 11:53 pm

    Wow, I’m speechless and I haven’t even seen the film though I’ve been wanting to read the book.

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