Director Lee Daniels’ Precious will undoubtedly be one of the 10 films up for the Best Picture Academy Award in March.
Clareece Precious Jones (played by Gabourey Sibide, in quite possibly the greatest breakthrough performance ever) is 16 and pregnant with her father’s child for the second time in 1987 Harlem. Nothing about her life is enviable. She is mocked by her classmates and does not have any friends. She can neither read nor write. Mary, Precious’ mother (portrayed by the perfectly vile Mo’Nique), sees her daughter and Down syndrome-afflicted grand-daughter, as a way to increase the sum of her welfare checks.
Mary is abusive in every way imaginable. She is constantly throwing frying pans, glasses, and potted plants at the daughter she “shoulda aborted.” After Precious is expelled from school, she gets an opportunity to attend an alternative school for troubled youth, much to the dismay of her mother who insists that Precious will never amount to anything and that “school ain’t gonna help nothin’.” Precious secretly starts attending class at Each One Teach One where she meets an inspiring teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) and classmates that will help her turn her life around.
Mary spends her days watching game shows on TV and ordering Precious to make her food, get her something to drink, buy her cigarettes, and go to the welfare office. Mary is completely and purposely ignorant and oblivious to Precious’ needs. When there is no food at home and Mary won’t give her any money, a desperately hungry Precious steals a bucket of fried chicken from a diner on her way to her new school.
With a body of work that includes Phat Girlz and Soul Plane, Mo’Nique’s shocking and awe-inspiring performance was completely unexpected. Similarly, Mariah Carey’s portrayal of social worker Mrs. Weiss is so incredible it makes Glitter, her notoriously bad cinematic flop, look like a fluke. These performances, as well as Patton’s excellent work as the patient and encouraging teacher, are likely to be overlooked because of Sibide’s tour-de-force performance as the haunting, chilling, and unforgettable Precious.