A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: November 6, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: 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
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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