Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

  • Review Date: November 2, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Powerful, painful account of Harlem teen's hard-luck life.
  • Review Date: November 2, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

Age(i)

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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite its many painful, cruel scenes and characters, the ultimate takeaway from this powerful drama is that no matter how persistently someone attempts to break you down, you are special.

Positive role models

A mixture of gruesome and awesome. Precious’ parents are vicious and uncaring (both are abusive, and her mother also handles a baby a little roughly, insults a special needs child, and calls her teen names), yet she finds a way to rise above it. Her teacher provides much-needed mentoring, and her new classmates offer friendship. Some cruelty among teens.

Violence

Overwhelmingly cruel at times, with a father molesting his daughter and a mother shown beating the same child -- including throwing objects (a television, for instance) at her and kicking her. One fight in particular is shockingly graphic. A man is shown unbuckling his belt and forcing himself sexually on a child.

Sex

Except for some dream sequences in which teens flirt with each other, all depictions of sex are either overtly or more subtly associated with violence (including assault). A woman is seen under the covers moaning, presumably pleasuring herself.

Language

Very raw, with frequent uses of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "bitch," "goddamn," "ass," "hell," and "oh my God."

Consumerism

Some mentions of products in the context of dream sequences.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some references to drug abuse, though nothing is shown.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this powerful indie drama based on the novel Push by Sapphire is a harsh, raw depiction of a Harlem teen’s brutal life that may be too intense for many viewers, even older teens. The main character is abused in every way imaginable (emotionally, physically, sexually) by those who ought to have her best interests at heart (including her parents) -- and yet she persists, rising above her circumstances. The language is coarse throughout the movie, there are many scenes of household violence (slapping, kicking, pushing, etc.), and sexual abuse abounds (a man is shown unbuckling his belt before he rapes his daughter). Still, it’s ultimately a compelling, thought-provoking film that will stick with those mature enough to handle it.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE, follows Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) -- a pregnant, 16-year-old, overweight teen in 1987 Harlem who's longing for a way out of her gritty, anguished life. Though she loves math, she can barely read or write. And when she’s not in school, she’s busy catering to the needs of her violent mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), whose rage is fueled largely by what she perceives as her husband’s rejection of her when he rapes and impregnates Precious. A transfer to an alternative school with an empathetic new teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), may be the catalyst that Precious needs.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

With its spectacularly brutal storyline, Precious is deeply compelling and disturbing at the same time. Director Lee Daniels goes for grit every chance he gets, with many sequences drained of color and light -- except for Precious' own flights of fancy, which provide much-needed escape from her own reality. The abuse -- verbal, physical, and sexual -- plays out in relentless assaults, allowing the audience to feel just a fraction of what it’s like to be Precious. It all makes for a powerful film, but sometimes it’s hard to stomach.

So thank heavens for Sidibe, who, in her first feature-film outing, doesn’t so much dazzle as persuade. She becomes Precious. Same for comedienne Mo’Nique, who surprises here with her monstrous depiction of Precious’ mother that manages -- a little, anyway -- to be tragic, too. And points to both Mariah Carey for her nuanced performance as a social worker and to Patton for providing uplift without treacle. Toward the end, the film feels a little message-y and hurried, but that’s forgivable. Precious is riveting.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's themes. What do you think the filmmakers hope viewers take away from watching? Does a good movie have to be easy and/or fun to watch? What do we learn from going outside our comfort zone?

  • Is Precious' seeming indifference to how she’s treated and how she copes upsetting or understandable? Or even admirable?

  •  What fuels Precious' desire to be a better mother and to have a better life?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 6, 2009
DVD release date:March 9, 2010
Cast:Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton
Director:Lee Daniels
Studio:Lionsgate
Genre:Drama
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language

This review of Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySilverSnake July 11, 2010
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Real good, but extremely sad

I'm actually watching it right now, my mom and aunt are too, so I got 'adult supervision' its real good but real depression. I mean how nasty her gross daddy did something bad to her and gave her children! Her mom makes me real mad too. They talk about condums once, the parents and people 'roiund her are abusive, but she's in a class and the teachers are nice to her, it has good messages dispite it all. I'd say 15 and up, but I'm 14 and sinse I'm watching it, I'll just say 14 and up.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 9 and 15 year old Written bypsalministry1 March 30, 2010
AGE
17
QUALITY
 

Older kids should see with parents, in case of questions.

The movie depicts what happens in hundreds of homes today. Some may be able to identify with stereotypes and just raw dealings with abuse and trauma to the human spirit. I love it for bringing these points out, but would use caution when allowing sheltered teens see this movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byxxhollisterluvxx March 30, 2010
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

Mature audiences only

Really mature movie. Strong language and violence are things to look out for. The movie was a little much for me.I'm 13. There's. A scene that shows her father molesting her. Only should be viewed by mature audiences.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Great role models

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