precious_poster-691x1023Simply wow! You know those phrases critics like to use to rave about a movie? Well, to use one of their phrases, Precious is a tour-de-force. For 1 hour and 49 minutes, it grabs you by the arm and it never lets go until the very last frame. I had heard a LOT of press before this film opened and the constant praise the film was receiving got me worrying on whether it would live up to it. Well, its safe to say it does and you would do yourself a huge disservice to not see this movie.

Precious is about people who never receive a chance in life. They live in a harsh world that has discarded them before they even come into existence and they are constantly reminded of it in their everyday lives. These people and their world are entirely unfamiliar to most of you partly because we are simply unaware of them and partly because we choose to be unaware. One of these people is our main character, Precious (Gabourey ‘Gabby’ Sidibe). She is an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child and living with her abusive welfare mom (Sherri Shepherd). To put it simply, her life is a giant fucking hellhole of an existence. After getting kicked out of junior high, which she has repeated numerous times, she is invited to attend an alternative school, where she learns to take her life in a new direction.

Much has been said about the performances given by Gabby Sidibe and Sherri Shepherd. To say these ladies give career-making performances would be an understatement. Both women and especially Shepherd are so mesmerizing that you completely forget you are watching actors playing characters. There are two monologues worth noting each given by Sidibe and Shepherd that did not leave a single dry eye in the theater (and it was a pretty packed theater). I don’t know what the two actors’ personal backgrounds are, but in watching their performances, its hard to imagine playing these roles without having any sort of personal connection or familiarity with the characters’ backgrounds.

The film also produces two other noteworthy performances given by Paula Patton, who plays Precious’ teacher, and Mariah Carey, who plays a social worker. I never thought I would ever say this, but Carey proves herself to be quite a talented individual and I hope to see her in more acting roles in the future. You may barely recognize her in Precious because Carey was required to not wear any makeup for the role. Never once did I feel like I was watching a superstar playing a social worker. She convincingly portrays a weary seen-it-all bureaucrat who is assigned to handle Precious’ case. Patton plays Precious’ teacher at the alternative school. Although her role may remind some of you of the many films that have come out dealing with teachers helping inner city kids (Dangerous Minds, Stand & Deliver, Lean On Me), Patton is the only ray of hope in the dreary existence portrayed in the film. The character opens Precious’ eyes to possibilities she never dreamed of and Patton ably portrays the positive, uplifting traits of the teacher character.

Precious is unlike other inner city school dramas like the ones mentioned above (Dangerous Minds, Stand & Deliver, Lean On Me). For one, the focus is on the life of a seemingly hopeless teen rather than the struggles of a teacher striving to help poor, disadvantaged kids. Furthermore, Precious does not have the Hollywood gloss and artificiality that colors the previous films. This movie is gritty, realistic, and revealing. It does not hold back in portraying the realities of the inner city and it doesn’t nicely package the end of the film as a uplifting, happy ending. The film does not pander to the audience and its not afraid to turn you off.

Precious is difficult to watch at times, but its also humorous and inspirational. Its a welcome change to the saccharine mindless shit typically put out by Hollywood (can we all say Twilight everyone?). This is an important film that should be watched by everyone. I can confidently say it will leave quite an impression after you see it and make you ponder the reality lived by people you don’t commonly interact with. This is what a film should do and Precious accomplishes this a thousand fold.