Sunday, 21 February 2010
You'd be forgiven for steering clear of Precious based on the plot alone: it's the late 1980s in New York City, and a isolated teenage girl with a shocking home life is rescued from grinding poverty and abuse by a gorgeous teacher who fills her life with hope. It was painful when it was called Dangerous Minds back in the mid 1990s and as stories go it hasn't gotten any better since: no wonder Oprah got behind this film.
But Precious forces life into it's many, many cliches by pushing them all as far as they can go - and then some. Precious herself (Gabourey Sidibe) isn't just poor: she's grossly overweight, has a down syndrome baby called Mongo - by her abusive father no less and she's pregnant with his second child. And things just keep on getting worse over the course of this film, but somehow the constant onslaught of bad news never gets tiring. Precious' mother Mary (Mo'Nique) is the scariest thing you'll see on screen this (or any other) year, a swearing, violent, TV throwing, baby dropping sexually abusive horror that'll haunt your nightmares. She's the best thing in this wildly uneven film.
From the early scenes where Precious steals dinner from a chicken shop through her wince inducing fantasies of fame until her mother's final shocking monologue to an appalled social worker (Mariah Carey no less), this film swings between being yet another trite "inspiring" tale of high school poverty to a raw knuckle attack on those very same stories. It's hardly enjoyable viewing, but in its intensity Precious is certainly unforgettable.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #473)