Precious

Mo'NiqueEntertainmentMoviesMariah CareyCrime, Law and JusticeGabourey SidibeChuck Norris

Every once in a while, a movie is so heartbreaking even a tough guy like Chuck Norris or Simon Cowell will break out into tears. The rest of us will need an entire box of tissues to survive, but it is worth it.

Gabourey Sidibe stars as Clareece Precious Jones - a young teen living in Harlem in 1987. To say she has a rough life is an understatement. While she is a capable young lady with an aptitude for math, Precious doesn't do well in school, has two children she became pregnant with after being raped by her father, and suffers constant physical and emotional abuse from her mother, Mary (Mo'Nique).

One day, her school principal intervenes and offers Precious a chance to attend an alternative school where she can study in a smaller classroom with additional attention from her teachers. However, Mary wants Precious to drop out of school and apply for welfare.

Will Precious be able to get away from her poisonous life?

What kind of future does she have?

What kind of future do her children have?

Director Lee Daniels is a genius. He has drawn Oscar winning performances out of Mo'Nique, Sidibe, Paula Patton, and (I'm not kidding when I say this) Mariah Carey (I know! I saw Glitter, too, and Daniels has to be the greatest director on the planet to make that actress give THIS performance). In addition to eliciting some of the best acting performances by women in movies this year, Daniels makes Precious into an emotional powerhouse that avoids mawkish and soap opera-like tones to make you cry and cheer all at the same time.

Among all of the amazing performances in Precious, people will most be shocked by Mo'Nique, a usually funny comedienne who becomes the nastiest, most horrifying person you have ever seen in your life. I don't know where it came from, but Mo'Nique gives Mary the kind of rage and sadistic spirit you would expect from a James Bond movie villain.

She makes Mary into a vicious devil as she screams at Precious and physically attacks her as the audience gasps in horror. Yet, and this is what sets Mo'Nique's performance apart from most, you get the smallest hint of mixed emotions about her. For as manipulative, crass, nasty and inhumane as Mary is, Mo'Nique gets 1% of your soul to feel some sympathy for her, since her life and her choices have led her to this place. It's how she responds to it that makes her a villain.

Meanwhile, as you have figured out already, Daniels and writer Geoffrey Fletcher (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) don't pull any punches. It would be easy to sugarcoat the story to make it easier for audiences to watch, but Daniels and Fletcher keep it real. The audience is confronted with Precious's world, so we can understand the mountain of challenge in front of her, the system that seems to be broken and the pain she must push through to escape. We appreciate this young lady's amazing courage in the face of such pain, desperation and devastation, which makes the story more powerful.

Precious is one of those movies people deservedly toss into the Oscar race speculation, but it's more than that. It’s the kind of inspirational movie that can cause everyone in the audience to wonder how they can help the next Precious they run across in their lives.

4 Waffles (Out of 4)

Precious is rated R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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