An unrelenting timeline of suffering youth, Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire overtly martyrs its titular character by thickly laying on the trauma. Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is an overweight African-American teenager living a nightmare in Harlem circa 1987, barely surviving her day-to-day life under attack from both uncaring social institutions and horrific familial degradations.
In fact, director Lee Daniels pounds this point so often, he squanders the initial sympathy for his tortured protagonist, numbing her plight with never-ending escalation in terror. During the atrociously contrived final act, Precious’ ridiculous angelic rise destroys the film’s credibility altogether.
Yet Sidibe’s finely tuned performance somehow transcends her cinematic representation. As Precious fends off countless physical and mental assaults, Sidibe reveals a convincing honesty when pushed to the brink, contradicting the lame dream sequences and melodramatic musical cues and giving her character a forlorn subtlety and complexity. One strong glance from Precious defies snide remarks by fellow students, stuns her mother’s (Mo’Nique) aggressive confrontations, and distills the syrupy arc pushed upon her by the filmmakers. Both actor and character deserve a better film and a more nuanced vision of a woman rising out of the deathly hallows.
Precious attempts to be a poignant character study, delving into the broken psyche of a girl struggling for an identity. By sugar-coating almost every moment of success and simplifying each conflict with violent posturing, Precious churns honest emotion into simplistic representation. Despite it’s undeserved critical praise, Precious remains just another forgettable foray into pertinent modern subjects doomed by agenda- driven faulty filmmaking. Ironically, it’s been pushed into the realm of importance by both short-sided champions and belligerent cynics. Par for the course all around.
Much hoopla has already been made over the film’s chance at the Academy Awards, but love it or hate it, this gives Precious too much credit either way. It seems like just more critical grandstanding typical for this time of year.