I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Friday, November 06, 2009

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)

When I was eleven years old, myself and another girl in class named Rochelle were asked to escort a first-grade girl home.  She had become sick in school.  Rochelle and I were given the orange belts that patrol guards wear so we wouldn't get stopped by the truant officers.  There were regular patrol boys, but not regular patrol girls.  The teachers would just pick whomever they thought were the more responsible of the girls when they needed patrol girls.  The little girl wouldn't tell Rochelle and I exactly where she lived, and we got frustrated.  "Girl, you'd better tell us where you live, 'cause we ain't got all day to play with you!" Rochelle snapped at her.  It was the middle of winter in 1973, and we wanted to get back to the warmth of the school.

When we finally got the right address, we learned quickly why the little girl had lied to us the first few times.  Her mother didn't bother to get up to check on the girl.  She lay on a mattress on the floor, half-asleep, with the TV droning in the background.  The place looked like it hadn't been cleaned in a long time.  The girl's mama yelled at her to go somewhere and sit down.  Rochelle and I backed out of the apartment as quick as we could, our mouths wide open.

That girl could have been the protagonist of this film down the line.  Sixteen-year-old Precious (Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe) has fantasies of having a light-complexioned boyfriend, being famous, and being loved.  The fantasies help her escape from the ugliness of her real life.  Her welfare mom, Mary (Mo'Nique), verbally and physically abuses her.  Her dad, Carl (Rodney "Bear" Jackson) has sexually abused her.  Precious has one child because of this, and is pregnant with a second child -- also by her dad -- as the film opens.  She is picked on by her classmates and harrassed by guys on the street. 

The teen is transferred to an alternative high school, partially because she is pregnant again, and mainly because she is too old to still be in junior high.  Mary is more concerned about Precious doing or saying something to cause her to lose her welfare check.  She downgrades her daughter constantly and tells her the best she can do in life is "go down to the welfare office".  Precious has such little belief in herself that she resists the chance to move ahead initially.  But then she meets an English teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) and a social worker, Ms. Weiss (Mariah Carey) who take an interest in her.  Precious slowly begins to believe there is something better for her, even as her circumstances battle to keep her from rising. 

This is a hard film to watch, but a very satisfying one.  Ms. Sidibe is a newcomer to acting, and she does an excellent job.  I knew girls who were in similar situations while I was growing up.  Ms. Sidibe accurately portrays the despair that a lot of girls like that carry around in their hearts. 

The supporting actors and actresses don't half-step in their roles, either.  Mo'Nique is better known as a comedian and for her role in the TV sitcom, "The Parkers" (1999-2004).  She plays a monster of a mom whose takes out the fact that her life is sour on her daughter.  Comedianne Sherri Shephard from the daytime talk show, "The View" is almost unrecognizable in her role as a staffer at the alternative high school.  Ms. Carey (Glitter; 2001) is appropriately dowdy and world-weary for her role as a social worker who has seen and heard a lot of bad things.  Another singer, Lenny Kravitz, shines as a male nurse. 

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