PRECIOUS – Review by Susan Granger

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Ever since this grim, gritty, urban drama won kudos at the Sundance, Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals and the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, it’s been generating industry hype and Oscar buzz, building on its themes of prejudice, incest, poverty and AIDS.

Poor, illiterate, morbidly obese, African-American 16 year-old Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) has been raped by her father since she was a toddler, already bearing one Downs Syndrome child, named Morgan, and pregnant by him again – in 1987 – when she’s assigned to an alternative school, Each One/Teach One, where an altruistic, compassionate literacy workshop teacher, Ms. Blu Rain (Paula Patton), encourages her to keep a journal. Expressing her bleak despair and traumatic rage in poetry and prose allows angry, alienated, HIV-positive Precious to blossom with her first shred of self-esteem and a new sense of self-respect and self-determination. This infuriates the teenager’s jealous, foul-mouthed, welfare-cheating mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), a warped, sadistic predator who habitually abuses Precious – emotionally and physically – from her perch in front of the television set their filthy Harlem apartment.

While 26 year-old newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe is riveting – and she’s the voice-over narrator – upcoming Academy Award nominations will undoubtedly, and deservedly, also include stand-up comedienne Mo’Nique. There’s also a surprisingly deglamorized Mariah Carey as drab Mrs. Weiss, the patient social worker who finally has to intervene between Precious and her monstrous, self-absorbed mother, and Lenny Kravitz, who is nearly unrecognizable in a small role as a nurse. Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher and director Lee Daniels (“Shadowboxer,” “The Woodsman”) are slavishly faithful to the socially-conscious 1996 novel by Sapphire (a.k.a. teacher/poet Romona Lofton), shooting reality with an almost-documentary sensibility while interspersing light-hearted sequences of sheer fantasy on a $10 million budget.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push'” by Sapphire’ is a shocking, street-smart 9, primarily for its memorably brazen and devastating performances

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.