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At the Movies: The Precious Essence ***1/2:

Sit back, but don’t plan on relaxing. The opening sequences of Precious make it perfectly clear that there is nothing soft or demure about the story about to unfold. We are immediately transmitted into a gritty, unexposed life occurring in 1980’s Harlem. The heroine, Clareece ‘Precious’ Jones (Gabby Sidibe), not only reflects all the hardships of her short teenage life, but also completely encompasses a sincere craftsmanship of character. Director Lee Daniels’ new film is unabashedly to the point; avoiding many of the pitfalls of neglected inner-city youth dramas and instead highlighting redemption through masterfully acted portraits of troubled individuals.

It is 1987 and we are thrown into a dark and ever enclosing world of despair, an existence for the16-year-old Precious. She is pregnant with her second child, has recently been suspended from school and in no uncertain terms, a slave to her abusive mother. Precious’ life is practically a living hell. It seems that her life could very likely resemble that of her mothers, relying on welfare and becoming emotionally and financially lost in an underprivileged society. The young teen follows orders, gambling on races and constantly frying up a meal for her TV bound mother.

Witnessing the descent is heartbreaking and we feel the hopelessness of Precious, but as a companion on her journey, we also experience her daydreaming escapism. We see her hopes and desires, whether they are as simple as having a boyfriend to becoming an international cover-model, the audience understands her potential to rise above her horrible situation. And once given that chance for a voice in an alternative educational system, Precious’ life diverts toward a new self-discovery and possible outcome.

The realistically disturbing images throughout the film are definitely intense but could also become cliché in telling the unfortunate life of an inner-city youth, but the film averts this stigma with high caliber acting. Mo’Nique is absolutely detestable as Precious’ mother, Mary, driving home the feeling of gloom and becoming an unstoppable force of passion. Sidibe completely encapsulates the lead role and we feel as if we are eyewitnesses on this young girl’s journey. The acting is so superb; to not mention these two actresses in terms of awards this coming year would be foolish. Mariah Carey lends a great supporting role as a social worker, as does Paula Patton as a teacher and confidant for Precious. In simpler terms, if you are looking for well-crafted acting, look no further.

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, is currently in limited release but with buzz and names like Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey attached as executive producers, you’ll be sure to hear more about the film. The film has an independent quality with Lee Daniels in the director’s chair for the second time, focusing on characters and mood, telling the harsh story of perseverance. It is a significant impression of the best qualities of the human spirit and art of screen performance.

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