Starring Gabby Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, and Mariah Carey
Texas-based singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith doesn't have much in common with the characters in Precious, but while watching the film I was nevertheless reminded over and over again her song "It's a Hard Life Wheverever You Go": It's a hard life, it's a hard life, it's a very hard life
It's a hard life wherever you go
If we poison our children with hatred
Then the hard life is all that they'll know
And there ain't no place in this world for these kids to go
We don't need to see this story unfold to know many of the particulars. Precious (newcomer Gabby Sidibe) is 16, pregnant with her second child, both the result of incestuous rape by her father. Her mother (Mo'Nique) blames Precious for the pregnancies, and blames her for just about everything else. They live on welfare in Harlem, and Precious is obese, illiterate, quiet, trapped in her own dreams, and afraid. Much of that we could guess with very little knowledge of the film. But director Lee Daniels has given his characters (as originally penned by Sapphire in her novel Push) the responsibility of the weight of their actions. Free passes don't really exist here. By the end of the film, we not only see the consequences of their lives, but so do Precious and her mother. Because of her situation, Precious is pushed out of her public school and into an alternative school called Each One Teach One, where Dead Poet's Society meets Dangerous Minds. None of the students in the all-female school have much direction, though some of them, to their credit, have determination to change their lives. This is eye-opening to Precious, as is every encounter with her teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), who is clearly the first person to come into Precious' life selflessly. The film incorporates the dreams of this lost teenager - red carpet premieres, starring in foreign films, dancing in front of crowds - as a counterbalance to the most painful moments in her life, like bare-knuckle beatings by her mother and her rape. While she's being attacked, Precious shuts down and escapes into her dreamworld. It's powerful stuff.