Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Mar 06th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Buried Child

film_preciousDemoralized teen finds herself in masterful ‘Precious’

Any politician poised to slash a social services budget should first be required to watch Precious. Lee Daniels’ masterful film shows how the tiniest flicker of compassion, in tandem with a functioning social program, can transform a life of complete degradation into something triumphant. While putting an unforgettable human face on what might otherwise be just another depressing inner-city statistic, the film persuades us that a small community of caring individuals can change a life, even against impossible odds.

The face of the movie belongs to newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, who gives an astounding, adjective-defying performance in the title role. A wary, mountainous, hard-luck Harlem teenager, Sidibe’s Precious has learned to hide her spirit beneath protective layers of flesh and silence. But Sidibe reveals the vibrant, questing self inside the character with grace and a fierce authenticity. This is acting of transcendent loveliness, not to be missed.

The character Precious first came to life in the 1996 novel, “Push,” by the poet-turned-fiction writer who goes by the name Sapphire. Adapted for the screen by Geoffrey Fletcher, the story revolves around a most unlikely heroine, Clareece “Precious” Jones (Sidibe). The year is 1987, and 16-year-old Precious is still in junior high; good in math, but unable to read, she coasts along on passing grades because she never says anything in class and doesn’t cause any trouble. She’s also pregnant for the second time by her father, her mother’s lowlife boyfriend (although the girl is already so hefty, it’s hard to notice her condition).

Precious’ home life is a nightmare. Her abusive father is no longer around (glimpsed only in harrowing flashbacks), but her toxic mother, Mary (an incendiary performance by Mo’Nique), is a black hole of rage and contempt, sucking all life and spirit out of her daughter’s existence. Mom never leaves the apartment; she’s planted in front of the TV 24/7, hurling non-stop vitriol (and the occasional bottle or flower-pot) at the daughter she treats like a slave. Although Precious’ firstborn lives elsewhere with Mary’s mother, Mary orchestrates a monthly charade for the welfare agent so she can receive checks as the baby’s guardian. The rest of the time, when she’s not calling Precious fat, stupid, and ugly, Mary eggs her on to quit school and go on welfare.

Small wonder Precious has so little to say about herself to a welfare caseworker (a drab, droll turn by Mariah Carey) or her school officials. But one counselor has the wit to transfer her files to an alternative school with an “Each One Teach One” program, and while Mary won’t let the meddling white woman in her house, Precious memorizes the address and goes to check it out the next day. It’s not so much at first sight: a half dozen teenage girls trying to earn their GEDs with a savvy, compassionate teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton). But for Precious, it proves to be the first step into a new life.

Director Daniels stages the action like the most gripping thriller, full of jeopardy and portent. Every tense minute Precious spends in her momma’s apartment is more freighted with dread and far scarier than anything you’ll see in Paranormal Activity. During the more intense scenes, we’re allowed to breathe as Precious escapes into a fantasy world culled from glitzy TV images, where she imagines herself a glamorous movie star at a premiere, a sexy rock diva, or the leader of a spangled gospel choir. In one gutsy shot, she fixes her hair in the mirror one morning and sees a pretty, slender white girl with long blonde hair peering back.

For all her outward silence, Precious narrates her own story with wry verve and an ingenuous sense of poetry. (When Ms. Rain and a friend are discussing events in the larger world, Precious notes—not without admiration—”They talk like TV channels I don’t watch.”). When this inner Precious begins to assert herself in her own daily life, the movie soars. (Encouraged by her teacher, Precious says that talking in class “makes me feel like I’m here.”) It’s a quietly profound moment in this uncompromising, inventive, and rewarding film.

PRECIOUS ★ ★ ★ ★ With Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, and Paula Patton. Written by Geoffrey Fletcher. From the novel, “Push,” by Sapphire. Directed by Lee Daniels. A Lionsgate release. Rated R. 109 minutes. Watch movie trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Crop Circles

How the confusion over GMOs is undermining the organic movement

 

Week of Festivals: Full Moon, Lantern Festival, Purim, Holi

It is a week of many different festivals along with a full moon, all occurring simultaneously. Thursday Chinese New Year celebrations end with the Lantern Festival (at full moon). Thursday is also the Pisces Solar festival (full moon), Purim (Jewish Festival) and Holi (Hindu New Year Festival). Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2 a.m. The festival of Purim celebrates the freedom of the Hebrew people from the cruel Haman (a magistrate) seeking to destroy them. Esther, the Queen of Persia, who was secretly Jewish, saved her people from death. The sweet cookie hamentaschen celebrates this festival. Friday, March 6, is Holi, the Hindu Spring Festival celebrated after the March full moon. Bonfires are lit the night before, warding off evil. Holi, the Festival of Colors, is the most colorful festival in the world. It is also the Festival of Love—of Radha for Krishna (the blue-colored God). It is a spring festival with singing, dancing, carnivals, food and bhang, a drink made of cannabis leaves. Holi signifies good over evil, ridding oneself of past errors, ending conflicts through rapprochement (returning to each other). It is a day of forgiveness, including debts. Holi also marks the beginning of New Year. At the Pisces Solar festival we recite the seed thought, “We leave the Father’s home and, turning back, we save.” Great Teachers remain on Earth until all of humanity is enlightened. The New Group of World Servers is called to this task and sacrifice. Sacrifice (from the heart) is the first Law of the Soul, the heart of which is Love. This sacrifice saves the world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of March 6

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Water Street Grill

YOLO gets reincarnated

 

What would make Santa Cruz better?

A lot more outdoor activities such as outdoor movies and concerts, food and art festivals, and more multicultural activites. Emmanuel Cole, Santa Cruz, Bicycle Industry Product Developer

 

Thomas Fogarty Winery

When looking for a bottle of something to have with dinner, Gewürztraminer 2012 is not the first wine to come to mind. Given the popularity of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir—to name but a few—Gewürztraminer sits low on the totem pole.

 

So Long, Louie’s

Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar closes, plus Back Porch pop-up, and 2015 Outstanding in the Field tour