PRECIOUS (Maple, 2009) D: Lee Daniels, w/.

PRECIOUS (Maple, 2009) D: Lee Daniels, w/ Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique. Rating: NNNN DVD package: NNN Rating: NNNN

A hugely overweight 16-year-old in 1987 Harlem, Precious is abused and constantly belittled by her mother, pregnant with her second child by her father and kicked out of school because of it. She gets a second chance at an alternative school.



The movie works better as narrative than as drama – narrative being defined as a string of events, while drama is conflict generated, worsened and resolved. There is no shortage of highly emotional dramatic scenes, but don’t expect a grand resolution.

This makes sense in terms of the movie’s stated purpose, which is laid out in the extras. Director Lee Daniels and exec producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry are shooting for an inspirational message of hope for all the girls like Precious and an understanding of her humanity for the rest of us. For both audiences, narrative works better than drama. Nothing kills a message of hope like a tacked-on happy ending, unless it’s a tragic death, and nothing kills compassion like melodrama, which is what you’d need to achieve a tidy finish.

If you’re not big on messages, there’s still the great acting. Gabourey Sidibe, as Precious, and Mo’Nique, her layabout mother, completely vanish into their roles. One of the highlights in the extras is the sight of these same actors, so deglamorized for the movie, done up like Vogue models for their interviews.

EXTRAS Director commentary novel-to-screen doc cast doc exec producers Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey statements novelist and director conversation, more. Widescreen. English, French audio. English subtitles.

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