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With: Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz, Stephanie Andujar, Chyna Layne, Amina Robinson, Xosha Roquemore, Angelic Zambrana, Aunt Dot, Nealla Gordon, Grace Hightower, Barret Isaiah Mindell
Written by: Geoffrey Fletcher, based on a novel by Sapphire
Directed by: Lee Daniels
MPAA Rating: R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language
Running Time: 110
Date: 01/16/2009

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Baby Blues

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's hard to escape the massive hype surrounding this movie, including its many awards and breathless acclaim. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to suggest that some of this hype has been calculated, since director Lee Daniels is also a producer on such similar award-mongering works as Monster's Ball (2001) and The Woodsman (2004). It would be all too easy to either succumb to the hype and give Precious a rave review, or to resist the hype and give it a flat-out pan. The truth is that it's an effective little movie, with many powerful gut-punch moments and strong performances. It's too long and unevenly paced, it wobbles a bit in the final third and it has several of those awkward moments during which it feels like it's going to end and doesn't. I wouldn't enthusiastically recommend it, and I'm certainly not interested in seeing it again, but if you already know you want to see it, you'll probably like it.

Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe stars as Precious, an overweight, awkward African-American girl who was raped by her father, has already given birth once and is now pregnant again. She lives with her monster of a mother (Mo'Nique), who treats her with violence and contempt. It is decided that Precious qualifies for an alternative school, and there meets the pretty Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), who teaches Precious to write and to learn self-confidence. (She also befriends her classmates, consisting of seven easily-defined types.) Happy scenes alternate with heartbreaking scenes, and Daniels switches them out for maximum effect; it's a relief to get a happy scene after a tragic one, and the happy ones make the tragic ones seem more so. Precious turns on an interesting defense mechanism to protect herself from horrors; she pretends that she's a star at a photo shoot or a movie premiere. Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz appear in small roles, calling attention to themselves just a bit too much. Mo'Nique looks to be on the road to an Oscar, and many viewers will feel like better people for having spent time with Ms. Sidibe. [Note: the title was changed from just plain "Push" to avoid confusion with last spring's sci-fi thriller Push.]

Blu-Ray Details: The Blu-Ray from Lionsgate does not skimp on the extras; Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels provides a rich commentary track, and there are many, many featurettes featuring interviews with the actors and author Sapphire, and even a featurette on Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. We get Gabby's original audition, and a deleted scene. Fans of the film will not be disappointed.

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