Precious, the movie and astonishing roles of Gabourey Sidibe, daughter of Senegal-born father/cab driver and African-American mother
Review of Precious, the movie based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire.
By Eric D. Snider
The premise of Precious is so unsettling and bleak that no one would blame you if you didn’t want to see it: It’s the story of an obese 16-year-old illiterate Harlem girl who’s pregnant (for the second time) by her own father, lives with her monstrously abusive mother, and has almost given up on life. But if you do see it, you’ll find that it’s compelling and artistic, punctuated with warm humor and masterful performances, and ultimately triumphant and hopeful.
The girl is named Claireece “Precious” Jones (she goes by Precious), and she’s played with astonishing rawness by newcomer Gabourey Sidibe. Narrating the film, Precious tells us the grim facts. Beyond the ones already noted, she is still in junior high school (where she’s dumbly in love with her kindly math teacher); her first child, born with Down syndrome, is technically in her mother’s custody but is actually cared for by her grandmother; and her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), is a welfare-absorbing harridan who abuses Precious in every possible way, hating her daughter for “stealing” her man. Precious did no such thing, of course — she was raped by her father — but Mary is not interested in details.
Precious is directed by her principal to an alternative school called Each One Teach One. Her class is populated by other girls who dropped out or were kicked out of public schools for various reasons; it’s telling that even in such a motley group, Precious is still the most timid, the most withdrawn, and the most messed-up. The teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), is dedicated to her work, perhaps the first adult to ever take a genuine interest in helping Precious. The other students might be Precious’ first friends, too.
Sapphire, the pen name of a New York poet who has worked with at-risk teens like those in the book, published her novel, called Push, in 1996, and it’s taken this long for someone to figure out how to film it. (It premiered at Sundance under the title Push: Based on a Novel by Sapphire, but was changed to Precious to avoid confusion with the other 2009 film called Push.) That someone is Lee Daniels, who produced Monster’s Ball and The Woodsman, so he’s pretty well-versed in harrowing subject matter.
I didn’t see his directorial debut, Shadowboxer (I understand it has scenes of Cuba Gooding Jr. doin’ it with Helen Mirren), but Push is an impressive sophomore effort. Daniels (working from a screenplay by first-timer Damien Paul) directs boldly and confidently, never exploitative of the film’s subject matter, never wallowing in the depravity, yet not overly cautious or safe, either. Nothing is watered down. He shows us as much as we need to see, artfully conveying Precious’ stark situation without fixating on the sordid details. It helps that Precious tends to retreat into her imagination, giving Daniels a way to rescue us from the situation, too.
Sidibe’s performance as Precious is fantastic — fully realized, perfectly authentic, and without a hint of contrivance. It’s the sort of debut that will either be followed by a stellar career, or that she’ll never be able to live up to. I hope we get a chance to see what else she can do.
Meanwhile, there are eye-opening turns by Mo’Nique, who helps us understand Precious’ mother’s frame of mind without making her sympathetic; and Mariah Carey, who’s almost unrecognizably un-glamorous as a social worker.
Precious, in addition to her physical problems, lacks even basic self-esteem, and the film is largely about her journey toward normalcy. Things will never be super-awesome for her; the point is that she can learn to cope with life and find a semblance of happiness and self-respect.
She sums up her attitude thus: “The other day, I cried. I felt stupid. But you know what? F*** that day.”
That day is gone. What happens today and tomorrow is what’s important. That feeling of hopefulness, not the awfulness that precedes it, is what you’ll take with you when the film is over. (from Sundance Film Festival reviews)
President Obama, hate-mongers and mob cons. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, www.Achebebooks.com, CLASS magazine, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica.TV, and the largest digital images/pictorial events domain for Africans abroad www.PhotoWorks.TV
USAfricaonline.com goes richly interactive with new look, content….
By Alverna Johnson. Corporate Affairs, Houston:
On 10/10/09, the major redesign and addition of richly interactive options will go fully live on the award-winning web site of the first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet, www.USAfricaonline.com
“The importance of this latest interactive re-positioning of USAfricaonline.com is to fully tap into the advantages of the digital world to benefit our community and readers. Especially, the key issue and leverage is that we have and own unique content; and with this initiative, USAfrica advances, further, the immigrant African views and news into the international media and public policy mainstream. It leverages the global resources of USAfrica, again, into the electronic frontline of critically informed, responsible discourse and seasoned reportage of African and American interests as well as debating relevant issues of disagreement”, notes Chido Nwangwu, the Founder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, AchebeBooks.com, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica.TV and CLASSmagazine.
“Some of the new features on USAfricaonline.com have enabled for our readers and bloggers, the live texting of pages and page links to phones and other multimedia devices, instant sharing across all the leading social networks especially Facebook, Twitter, digg, myspace, Mixx, Technorati, LinkedIn, AIM, LiveJournal and Yigg.”
Chido Nwangwu, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009 and analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, highlights other advantages as “live RSS feeds and e-syndication of the USAfrica reports and premium content. In terms of graphics and structure, the new USAfricaonline.com has visually refreshing headers and crisp pictures. We’ve also added more columnists, regional news correspondents and incisive special features writers. The site will be updated regularly, especially for significant breaking news.”
The flagship of the American media, The New York Times, several public policy, media and human rights organizations have assessed USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com as the most influential and largest multimedia networks covering the bi-continental interests of Africans and Americans. The first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; PhotoWorks.TV in 2005, and dozens of web sites and e-groups/blogs.
The Houston-based USAfrica has a formidable, experienced network of editors and correspondents across the U.S and Africa. Its Publisher served as adviser on Africa business/community to Houston’s former Mayor Lee Brown. http://usafricaonline.com/chido.html
contact: Alverna Johnson (Corporate Affairs). USAfrica Inc. 8303 Southwest Freeway, Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77074
office:713-270-5500 wireLess: 832-45-CHIDO (24436) e-mail: News@USAfricaonline.com or Chido@USAfricaonline.com