"Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire" **** (109 minutes)

Saturday January 2, 2010

Last year, Heath Ledger gave one of the most memorable performances ever by a male actor in Christopher Nolan's brilliant, "The Dark Knight". As predicted, his posthumous Supporting Academy Award was merely a formality. This year's version, by a female, will undoubtedly be handed over to Mo'Nique on March 7th as her performance as the mother of her abused child, Claireece "Precious" Jones, is another one for the ages.

The independent film, directed & produced by Lee Daniels has been racking up award after award after initially receiving 3 major Sundance Awards when it debuted there last January: the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic Audience Award, & Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Acting to Mo'Nique. One of the most powerful American films I have ever seen, this is a tragic story that, in the end, actually sends a message of hope & possibility in the face of life defined by total despair.

Precious (newcomer Gabourey Sidibe in a touchingly realistic performance) is an overweight abused teenager; impregnated for a 2nd time after being raped again by her father. Threatened and further vocally & physically abused by mom, who treats her child more like a servant, Precious faces continual abuse at school. The only people who seem to care and understand her pain are her teacher (in a wonderfully nuanced performance by Paula Patton) and social worker (a virtually unrecognizable Mariah Carrey who delivers a magnificent performance that will have people forget "Glitter"-if they were unfortunate enough to see it) who work to bring some semblance of beauty and meaning into the life of this child.

As bleak and unfathomable as this all seems, director Daniels and first time screenwriter Damien Paul inject enough fantasy & humor to give a necessary lift to this powerful raw emotional story. And as I pointed out, there is a clear discernible light at the end of this dark tunnel which Precious is traversing so that, at the end, you will walk out of the theater realizing that you have witnessed one of the great films of this or any year.

Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is comforted by teacher Ms Rain (Paula Patton)

Mary (Mo'Nique)

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