18 November 2009 | jdesando
"My name is Clareece Precious Jones. I want to be on the cover of a magazine. I wish a had a light-skinned boyfriend with good hair. But first I want to be in one of those BET videos."
Precious in the film of the same name is 16, black, overweight, a mother of 2 children by her father, lives in Harlem, and dreams of music videos and a white boyfriend. This powerful slice of poor life seems unremittingly real and when juxtaposed with reality TV, downright authentic.
It's not difficult to see why this deeply affecting character study won top prizes from Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto: Its star is a new talent so immersed in her role that to think of her not being Precious is almost impossible, even for a cynic like me. Proficient with his second film, director Lee Daniels guides diva Mariah Carey into a role as an unforgettably underplayed social worker.
For an educator such as I, the classroom scenes at an alternative school where Precious prepares for the G.E.D are inspiring glimpses of how small classrooms with a gifted, patient teacher (Paula Patton as Ms. Rain) can transform the lost causes into productive citizens. Those scenes and the ones in the hospital where Precious delivers her second child are but brief unreal dreams in their own way of the love that may wait for Precious later in life—not now because her abusive mom still appears and tortures Precious in different ways (skillfully acted by comedienne Mo'Nique).
When Precious sees the endearing relationship her beloved teacher has with her partner, she exclaims, "They talk like people in TV shows that I don't watch." It's a brave, new world for her and a sobering joy for us to vicariously suffer and delight with a character whose weight might symbolize the heavy and complicated world that she may never be able completely to escape .