Precious: Not a Ghetto Freak Show

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Precious: Not a Ghetto Freak Show

The buzz is at a fever pitch for this movie and for good reason. At least a couple Oscar nominations are guaranteed for this amazingly painful and compelling tale of adversity and ultimately survival.

Based on the 1996 award-winning novel Push by Sapphire, the story, set in 1987 Harlem, follows the tortured and dark life of Clarisse Precious Jones. The obese, illiterate, and pregnant (for the second time by her AIDS infected father) 16-year-old somehow still gets up every morning and makes her way to school, even when her abusive and clearly mentally ill mother thinks she would be better served spending her time at the welfare office.

Director Lee Daniels takes on the challenge of bringing this blistering story, with the help of screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher, to the screen. Author Sapphire reports that she initially turned him down when he approached her about making the book into a film, but changed her mind after she saw his 2005 directorial debut “Shadowboxer”

Daniels is no stranger to bringing less than attractive, and more often than not, challenging allegories to audience’s attention. Over the last ten years he has tackled issue of racism, pedophilia, and assassins engaged in pseudo incestuous relationships; so one could easily concede that Push was a natural fit in his portfolio.

An Official Selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and winner of three awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival including the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, “Precious” stars Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz.

Gabourey Sidibe

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, in the role of Precious, has everyone talking. Mostly about how different she is from the character that she so convincingly plays. Discovered during an open audition, Sidibe embodies every inch of Precious. Her face seems to easily transform into this blank, but painful mask that barely hides the despair that hangs over her on a daily basis. But it is her three hundred pound body that makes her a target of street hoods and her predatory father. Sexually abused since age three, and pregnant for the first time at 12, it seems the bigger she gets the more her humanity is disregarded. She copes the only way she knows how by constructing fantasy worlds where she is adored by “light-skinned boyfriends” and gets to walk red carpets

Comments [22]

MacLass_19's picture


This movie looks intense.... I can't wait to see it. I've never seen Mo’Nique play a roll like this before - she's one talented woman.

I adored her when she hosted, "Showtime at the Apollo". 

peacekitty's picture

Thanks Michelle for a great

Thanks Michelle for a great review.  I definitely would have missed this film if I hadn't read this. 

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

mickey06's picture


I appreciate this review as it offers a different perspective from the many others I have yet. I havent seen the film yet but I intend to this upcoming weekend. I will say that I find it very problematic that the character of Ms. Rain is played by Paula Patton. That is quite a (physical) departure from the Ms. Rain that is described in the book. I felt that the dark skinned, dread loc'd, lesbian Ms Rain in the novel was important not only for her teaching abilities and compassion but also as a model for a beautiful Blackness that is not defined by light skin, "good hair", or heterosexuality. But, I will wait til I see the film before I make any final conclusions.



Professor C's picture


for this really smart review! I'm so glad I read this before I go see the film.

I remember reading Push in high school (not as an assigned read, of course, since i grew up in indiana) and am excited it's made its way on screen after all this time...

ShadowCat's picture


"Many cultural critics have come down hard on this little film, especially around the issue of whether putting these long held stereotypes on screen really helps educate mainstream audiences or just validates for them who they believe black people are."  I was just thinking about this the other day.  I've had to move back to Upstate NY a few months ago, just south of Rochester.  I hear a lot of things that really makes me sad/angry, especially when it comes out of my step-father's mouth. 

1st I was at a gathering at my friend's father's house over the summer.  The "adults" were talking about the decline of America.  The conversation was something along these lines "all black people are killing each other and popping out babies to continue the cycle.  i'm afraid to walk around the city at night."  me and my friend were horrified.  it must be nice to live in your middle class white bubble.  well, maybe for them but i sure as hell wouldn't ant to live in it.   i tried to explain about poverty, the failing of the public school systems, not being able to afford birth control, white people kill gay/trans people  etc but i might as well have been speaking Catonese.  i started to get really really upset and angry.   then my friend dragged me out of there, politely excused us and we left.

my step father has in the past, '90s,  made inappropriate comments like calling every black man he sees (not very diverse around here) "hootie" as in the blowfish.  he also has his jive-talk accent to immitate any african american.  my mother and i try to tell him that this is wrong.  i had not heard anything like this from him in a while so i was caught off guard when it happened a couple weeks ago.  the news was on.  some one from geneva had stabbed his gf to death.  he said out of nowhere "i'm sure he's black with 20 kids".  my mouth fell open.  i told him that was horrible and i had to leave the room. 

and oh the homophobia!  neighbor's calling each other faggots and oh that's so gay.  also, i was watchin I Love You Man with my parents and when the guy from Reno 911 tongue kisses Paul Rudd they both freaked out, screaming EEWWWWW GRROSSS.  are you fucking kidding me?  right in front of me.  i was so upset.  things like this make me want to run away and completely vanish.  they seemed okay when i brought my ex here last january.  guess not.


anyways.  i just don't know how to deal with it.  i try to reason with people like this and they look at me like i'm nuts.  uggh.  my heart hurts.  i need to get the hell out of here but that's not happening for a long while. 

but yeah, i hope to see this soon.  maybe i'll try to take my parents and see what their reaction is.  sorry for the ranting.

Not2Taem's picture


No need to apologize; that's one of the reasons we're here. You sisters will always have a sympathetic ear for you. There is some hope. I know several people who were outrageous bigot in mid life and got over it in their old age. I know, not much to hold on to. Long walks?

Hang in there.

ShadowCat's picture


luckily it doesn't happen too often at home.  i mainly hide out in my room.  i do try and get out to the guy as much as possible.  i don't have a car and it's getting cold  : ( 

Grace Moon's picture

oi vay oi vay

Also i think its generational, the white side of my family, esp my granny were total racists, and said jaw dropping things. I wish I could repeat what she said on her death bed, but its too inappropriate.

PS Shadow Cat really like your green pic.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

ShadowCat's picture

thank you

thanks grace.  i've been trying out a new hair style and had to document it. i always wanted to be an Outsider when i was little.  i love '50s clothes/hair.  i've been getting a lot of compliments too.

my step father's father has a men's clothing store on main st, that my step father took over around 30 years ago.  the tailor has worked there almost that long and said back when his father was still working whenever a black man came into the store he would have all the employees come downstairs and watch the guy.  and his mom is worse.  so he doesn't know any thing else.  most of these people have never left upstate so don't know any better but of course that is by far an excuse.  it will always be mind boggling to me. 

any reports on the equal marriage bill?  my area state senator probably isn't supporting it.  let's hope it gets passed and does not go to popular vote.


Grace Moon's picture

its a good look for you

you should deff keep it.

Yeah i gotta say... upstate is kinda weird! my mother lives in the catskills, which isn't that upstate, and she has cool some cool lesbian friends that live near her. but sometimes when i drive through her town, i'm like what the...? small town mentaility thing i guess.

Not sure about this marriage thing, AP says Nov 16/17 a special session, our state senators are really pieces of work...

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Not2Taem's picture

Do you know where Montauk is?

I may not have that spelled right, but it is somewhere upstate on a lake. My brother in law is from there and the things that come out of his mouth make me want to fill it with cement.

Steph's picture

I just read about this film

I just read about this film in "Time" magazine - can't wait to see it.

Carollani's picture

I can not wait to see this

I can not wait to see this film.  When I heard that Tyler Perry was one of the producers I was completely turned off, but it looks as though all creative direction was kept out of his artistically poisonous hands.

Unlike Rusty, I <i>love</i> hard films.  Emotionally exhausting films are the reason that I became an actress.  If I could get such a difficult role and succeed in it, I would feel completely fulfilled.

Not2Taem's picture


When that perfect role comes along, be sure to drop a line here. We'll all be watching for you.  Smile

minniesota's picture

Learning about the movie Precious

I have been hearing about this movie and heard a radio segment with the director, Lee Daniels, last week on Fresh Air. I was fascinated to learn what went into making this movie. Here's a link to that program:


Still searching for the right brainy quote.

minniesota's picture

Same link!

Grace just linked to that same story in her comment below, smile.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Grace Moon's picture


we musta been posting at the same time.

Also i notice we listen to NPR at the same time too...

tweet tweet @gracemoon

minniesota's picture

Si, I usually have Minnesota

Si, I usually have Minnesota Public Radio on in the background during the day when I'm doing faculty work, unless I'm in meetings. And my car radio is always on that station, althought at times I feel a need to listen to some tunes. I'm a NPR/MPR junkie.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Grace Moon's picture

I heard

a fabulous interview with the director

Apprently Daniels actually went trolling though shopping malls and other places teens hang out, looking for the right girl to play Precious.

for one brief semester I was a sub-teacher for "alternative" board of Ed / GED programs for NYC. it was a BRUTAL experience. All of these kids came from or still lived in harrowing situations of emotional, psychological, physical abuse. I only lasted the one term, and had to get out. More than once, angry teenage boys would get up in my face. One kid, who was just my height stepped infront of me while I was leaving the class room. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds, and some animal instinct in me told me that if i was scared something could happen. he backed down, and I said something like, you really don't want me reporting you do you? I felt like I dodged a bullet.

it was an enlightening experience, not one i want to repeat.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Tex's picture

The perils of teaching....

my face to face was with a female student - she actually started drawing back her arm to hit me - my response, "Go ahead, but before you do I"m telling you this - I"m gonna win." She backed down also. Stupid thing for me to say, but I was young.....just started teaching.....words never to be said again.

Good lord, thanks for reminding me of that story...I was actually contemplating teaching again....nah!

Twitter Time @kdhales

Not2Taem's picture

5th grader with a carving knife

I taught in an elementary behavior unit for eight years and really enjoyed the first six. My most challenging encounter was with a 5th grade girl I had been trying for months to get moved to a secure program.  I was working with another student when she slowly approached with a carving knife raise above her head. She had difficulty with reality testing and her family let her watch all the wrong movies. Thankfully for the first time in history all the other kids followed directions the first time around, and I was able to get them out of the room. It turned out OK, but it really pissed me off that administration had ignored my warnings, especially since I was not in the habit of exporting challenging students.

I've also done volunteer adult literacy with the homeless, but we always have a couple of large male nurses around for drug checks/security. I know it sounds harsh, but the program really works. People get back on their feet and several have gone on to become tutors themselves.

Rusty's picture

convinced me

"Just because it is difficult to watch doesn’t make not true." It sounds like this film is being hit with some of the same criticisms The Color Purple received.

I have a hard time watching hard films. I still haven't been able to finish Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan. But your review makes me want to see this one. Thanks Michelle.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna