Precious presents us with the hard luck story of a morbidly obese, illiterate teenager (cinema newbie Gabourey Sidibe) trying to escape a life of poverty. Actually, "hard luck" is a vast understatement. She comes from a home where sitting in front of a TV and eating pound after pound of fried chicken and collard greens constitutes family time, and the only ambition is to continue receiving welfare checks . . . where she faces verbal and physical abuse from her mother and sexual abuse from her father. No one close to her believes in her. She aspires to achieve, but doesn't know how to reach her aspirations.
The scenes of abuse are among the most graphic and disturbing in recent memory. The sight of her frying food in a t-shirt is enough to set off her father into an incestuous frenzy. All she can do to cope with the horror of the creaking mattress, the sweaty skin of her father smothering her, is to zone out, to retreat to one of her many fantasies about being a fashion queen or to grow up in a family that loves her. Then afterwards, her mother chases after her screaming, blaming her for "stealing her man" and giving her daughter more children than he gave her. Moments like these are truly painful to watch, and director Lee Daniels amps up the ick-factor by juxtaposing moments of horrific violence with dark humor. Precious is easily the most visceral of this year's movies.
Having discovered that Precious is pregnant a second time, the school principle kicks her out and recommends an alternative school for girls like her with promise and ambition but few resources. At her new school, called Each One Teach One, an idealistic teacher wrangles a small class of troubled girls into essentially learning how to learn. She soon discovers that Precious cannot write and takes it upon herself to become her personal mentor, literacy coach, and, in a way, her social worker. Thus, there is hope for Precious, but with a baby on the way and her mother trying to yank her out of a halfway house, her problems never disappear.
Rest assured that this is not a simple coming-of-age, rags-to-riches story. Firmly grounded in gritty reality by raw acting and cinema vérité-style editing and camera movements, Precious is not only a great film to see, but to feel.
Heck, even Barbara Bush gave it a great review.