Red is the color of the scarf hanging around Clareese “Precious” Jones’ (Gabourey Sidibe) neck as she disappears among the crowd of students of her junior high school. Red is the color of the headband on her head as she imagines herself thin and pretty, attractive and white. Red is the color of the carpet as she struts out of the limousine of her imagination, only to wake up from her fantasies with the sound of laughter ringing through her ears as the immature boys ridiculed her. Red is the color of the stain of blood on her lips as her mother throws a frying pan at the back of her skull.
Red is the color of love and desire, passion and fame, but for Clareese “Precious” Jones, red is the color of her mother’s hate, her father’s abuse and her fantasies for a better life.
Set in Harlem 1987, Lee Daniels’ film Precious captures the mind and emotion as one watches an overweight black 16-year-old struggle through her second pregnancy while dealing with family issues and poverty. Although the film’s images are rich and jarring, Precious might as well been Oprah’s Lifetime movie, presenting the life of a woman’s incredible strength, endurance and optimism through pain. Yes, the plot might seem a little cliché, even with mention of The Oprah Winfrey Show conveniently product-placed within the film’s dialogue, but one cannot take pain and suffering lightly.
Sidibe’s convincing voiceover makes the movie, presenting pure, raw emotion, while capturing the viewer’s heart. One joins Sidibe’s character as she wonders why her mother named her Precious, only to scream profanities at her.
Meanwhile, Paula Patton as stars as Blu Rain, Precious’s encouraging teacher at the alternative school. While Blu Rain is not a social worker, but she might as well be one. Like Erin Gruwell, played by Hillary Swank, of the 2007 movie The Freedom Writers, Ms. Rain teaches women who don’t know how to read or write, making them journal everyday. However, unlike The Freedom Writers, Lee Daniels film focuses on the student rather than the teacher.
Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, Lee Daniels’ film will have the audience root for Clareese “Precious” Jones in this late-80s David versus Goliath story set in Harlem.
Despite the overwhelming obstacles that Precious is faced with, the viewer is left with glimmer of hope.